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0  LI 


A  Book. 
pichei.  up 

by       J 




NBW  YORK    •    BOSTON   •    CHICAGO  .    DALLAS 





Copyrighted  by  Harris  &•  Bluing. 


Chairman  and  Chief  Engineer  of  the  Isthmian  Canal  Commission. 





'  -'  '  W 





Wefo  gorfe 


All  rights  reserved 


,  ,1911,  1914, 

Se*upandelectrotyi|sd*0fublishedOctohcA''9iI-    Reprinted 
Aru^ry,  1912.  *•», 

JJJ^w^ijsvised  and  enlarged  edition,  Septenfbie/t  1914. 

J.  8.  Gushing  Co.  —  Berwick  <fe  Smith  Co. 
Norwood,  Mass.,  U.S.A. 

To  my  friend, 



appeared  as  articles  in  The  Outlook;  Chapter  II  in  Harper's 
Weekly;  Chapter  VIII  in  Success  Magazine.  Chapter 
XXXIV  is  a  compilation  of  material  used  in  articles  for 
Success  and  The  Coming  Nation.  They  are  reprinted  here 
through  the  courtesy  of  the  original  publishers. 

The  works  of  Bancroft,  Fiske,  Irving,  Prescott  and 
Winsor — the  principal  authorities  on  the  epoch  of  discovery 
and  colonization — have  been  freely  used. 

Other  authors  have  been  quoted — acknowledgment  is 
made  in  the  text — and  many  more  have  been  consulted. 
The  staff  of  the  American  History  Department  of  the  New 
York  Public  Library  have  been  of  great  assistance. 

While  on  the  Isthmus  I  have  received  courtesies  too  nu- 
merous to  mention  from  the  canal  men.  I  am  especially 
indebted  to  Col.  George  W.  Goethals,  the  Chairman  and 
Chief  Engineer,  and  to  Mr.  Joseph  Bucklin  Bishop,  the 
Secretary  of  the  Isthmian  Canal  Commission.  The  chapter 
on  health  conditions  could  not  have  been  written  except 
for  the  kind  assistance  of  Mr.  Jennings,  the  Entomologist 
of  the  Sanitary  Department. 

In  a  more  personal  way  I  am  deeply  in  the  debt  of  my 
friend,  John  0.  Collins,  for  suggestions  and  services  with- 
out end. 

The  exact  information  contained  in  this  volume  is  due 
to  those  I  have  mentioned.  The  mistakes  are  my  own. 


July,  1911. 



THE  body  of  the  book  has  been  carefully  revised,  new 
illustrations  gathered  and  two  chapters  added. 

My  friend,  John  O.  Collins,  has  helped  me  with  many 
corrections  of  the  first  edition  and  suggestions  for  this. 
And  I  am  especially  indebted  to  my  hosts  of  "The 
Monastery,"  Mr.  F.  H.  Cooke,  U.S.N.,  and  Mr.  W.  H. 
May,  whose  kind  hospitality  made  my  recent  visit  to  the 

Isthmus  most  pleasant. 







III.  THE  CANAL  ZONE  IN  1909 44 


I      V.  THE  GEOGRAPHY  OF  THE  ISTHMUS        ....  67 



VIII.  THE  THIRST  FOR  GOLD    .       .       .       .       .       .       .108 


X.  THE  COMING  OF  THE  WHITE  MAN       ....  132 


XII.  SANTA  MARIA  DE  LA  ANTIGUA  DEL  DARIEN       .       .  169 









XXI.  THE  DECLINE  OF  THE  SPANISH  EMPIRE       .       .       .  356 

XXII.  THE  WARS  OF  INDEPENDENCE — MIRANDA   .       .       .  370 

XXIII.  THE  WARS  OF  INDEPENDENCE — BOLIVAR     .       .       .  382 










XXIX.  BEGINNING  WORK      ........     475 

XXX.  THE  Boss  OP  THE  JOB      .......     497 

XXXI.  PULLING  THE  TEETH  OP  THE  TROPICS  .       .       .       .511 

XXXII.  TRANSPLANTED  AMERICANS      ......     526 

XXXIII.  THE  BIG  JOBS  IN  1911  .......     540 

XXXV.  FINISHING  THE  JOB  .....       ..       .       .579 

XXXVI.  THE  PROFIT       .       ........     588 


George  Washington  Goethals Frontispiece 


The  Keepers  of  the  Peace  in  Barbados 20 

A  Bullock  Cart  in  Martinique 20 

A  Cargo  of  Black  Ivory  at  the  Colon  Dock 42 

The  View  from  the  Tivoli 60 

Culebra  Cut  in  1909 60 

Map  of  the  Republic 66 

Water  Front,  Panama  City 80 

The  Flat  Arch  of  the  Church  of  St.  Dominic       .        .        .        .100 

The  Cathedral  of  Panama 100 

Banana  Market  at  Gatun,  on  the  Chagres 110 

Map  of  Indias 132 

Chepigana 150 

El  Real  de  Sta.  Maria 150 

Indian  Cayukas  on  the  Chucunaque  River 170 

Village  of  San  Miguel,  Pearl  Islands 180 

The  Steamer  Veraguas 200 

The  Deserted  Rancho 200 

A  Cholo  Indian  Village         .        .        .        .        .        .        .        .220 

Hitting  the  Trail .        .        .270 

Cocoanut  Palms 270 

Puerto  Bello  —  the  Grave  of  Sir  Francis  Drake  .        .        .        .290 
Native  Village  on  the  Site  of  the  Old  Town  of  San  Lorenzo        .     300 

Old  French  Equipment 340 

Modern  American  Equipment 340 

John  Findley  Wallace,  First  Chief  Engineer       .        .        .        .360 

John  F.  Stevens,  Second  Chief  Engineer 360 

Culebra  Cut  in  1904,  December,  looking  North  .        .        .        .380 

Colonel  Goethals'  Home 400 

Part  of  the  Labor  Problem 400 




Anopheline  Mosquito 440 

Isthmus  with  Completed  Canal 460 

Aricon  Hospital 480 

The  Middle  Lock  at  Gatun,  looking  South,  April  1,  1911  .  .  500 

Cut  at  Empire,  in  1911 516 

A  Steam  Shovel 530 

Culebra  Cut,  Culebra,  looking  South  from  the  West  Bank  and 

showing  the  Completion  of  the  Bottom  Pioneer  Cut  .  .  550 
Gamboa  Dyke,  separating  Chagres  River  and  Gatun  Lake  on  the 

Left,  from  the  mouth  of  the  Culebra  Cut  ....  566 

The  Blowing  up  of  Gamboa  Dyke 570 

Blowing  up  Gamboa  Dyke.  View  from  the  West  Bank,  showing 

the  Water  rushing  through  the  Opening  ....  576 
Suction  Dredges  operating  on  the  North  and  South  Sides  of  the 

Cucaracha  Slide,  Culebra  Cut,  Culebra  ....  580 
Cross-Section  of  Culebra  Cut,  showing  Increased  Excavation  due 

to  "  Slides  " 584 

Culebra  Cut,  Empire,  looking  South  from  the  West  Bank  near 

Cunette 590 

Gatun  Locks,  looking  North  from  the  Light  House  on  the  West 

Wall.    Atlantic  Entrance  in  the  Distance    .  ,  592 





THE  tropics  should  be  visited  by  way  of  the  sea.  You 
come  into  them  gently,  almost  imperceptibly.  You  are 
more  impressed  by  the  intensifying  blueness  of  the  water 
and  sky  than  by  the  increasing  heat.  It  begins  when  you 
leave  the  grayness  of  the  Gulf  Stream  and  deepens  day  by 
day.  Each  night  you  turn  in  feeling  that  at  last  you  have 
perceived  the  ultimate  blue.  And  each  morning  you  wake 
up  to  realize  that  yesterday's  blue  was  as  insipid  as  a  first- 
love  compared  to  deepness  of  the  color  of  this  new  day. 

The  fourth  night  out  I  was  on  the  bridge  with  the  cap- 
tain watching  the  glory  of  the  summer  moon  lazily  climb- 
ing up  from  the  horizon — painting  a  silver  "  trail  of  rapture 
in  the  wonder  of  the  sea."  Suddenly  the  rich  notes  of  a 
guitar  broke  the  silence,  and  then — after  a  few  preliminary 
chords — a  West  Indian  negro  melody  floated  up  from  the 
forecastle  hatch.  The  captain  stopped  his  sentry-like  pac- 
ing, smiled  contentedly,  and  pointed  with  his  pipe  towards 
the  sound. 

"Hear  Jem?"  he  said.  "They're  getting  near  home. 
They  never  sing  above  twenty-five  degrees  north.  It's 
time  to  get  out  your  white  clothes." 

And  so  you  pass  into  the  tropics  to  the  music  of  minor 



chords.  It  is  worth  the  trip  just  to  see  the  delectable  grin 
of  perfect  joy  with  which  the  negro  steward  lays  out  your 

Late  the  next  night  we  caught  the  gleam  of  Culebra, 
our  new  naval  base  off  Porto  Rico.  It  was  the  first  sign 
of  land  since  the  snow-covered  Jersey  hills  had  sunk  into 
the  sea. 

Before  dawn  the  next  morning  I  was  startled  out  of 
sleep  by  a  sound  I  had  not  heard  for  many  months, 
for  it  is  not  heard  on  Broadway — it  was  a  cock  crow- 
ing, answered  almost  immediately  by  the  barking  of  a 
farm  dog.  I  was  on  deck  as  soon  as  might  be.  Our 
ship  was  riding  at  anchor  off  the  Danish  island  of  St. 
Thomas.  The  moon  had  set,  and  in  the  darkness  there 
was  little  to  see  except  the  jagged  outline  of  the  moun- 
tains. The  entrance  to  the  harbor  was  dimly  visible,  and 
inside  a  few  early  lights  twinkled  in  the  town.  But  the 
land  breeze  brought  us  out  many  unfamiliar  sounds  and 
innumerable  rich  perfumes — the  pungent  fragrance  of  the 

As  the  dawn  broke  we  got  under  way.  It  is  a  wonderful 
harbor.  The  entrance"  is  less  than  half  a  mile  across,  and 
within — the  hills  rising  a  thousand  feet  on  every  side — is  a 
six-fathom  basin,  a  mile  or  more  across.  Nature  has  rarely 
built  so  perfectly  safe  a  harbor.  And  at  the  foot  of  the 
bay,  climbing  up  the  hillside,  is  the  many-colored  town  of 
Charlotte  Amalia. 

The  view  from  deck,  as  the  ship  creeps  in  to  anchorage, 
is  the  most  charming  in  the  West  Indies.  The  bay  lacks 
the  great  sweep  of  Algiers,  but  it  has  the  same  mountain 
background,  the  same  glorious  blue  of  sea  and  sky.  The 
village,  blue  and  orange  and  yellow  and  red,  recalls  some  of 
the  coast  towns  of  Italy.  The  garden  walls  of  the  hillside 
villas  shine  out  dazzlingly  white  against  the  luxurious  green 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  3 

of  the  tropical  foliage.  The  ruins  of  Bluebeard's  castle 
above  the  town — a  landmark  of  the  old  days  of  buccaneers — 
present  the  only  touch  of  gray.  The  rest  is  a  riot  of  color. 
Most  striking  of  all  is  the  gaudy  red  Danish  fortress  down 
by  the  water  front.  I  have  never  seen  so  red  a  building. 
At  first  it  is  glaring  and  unpleasant,  but  after  a  time  one's 
eyes  become' accustomed  to  the  new  scale  of  color  values 
which  the  intense  sun  of  the  tropics  requires.  And  the 
bizarre  glory  of  this  fort — which  would  be  unspeakably 
offensive  in  the  gray  north — seems  to  be  not  out  of  place 
in  the  color  scheme  of  St.  Thomas.  The  town  of  Char- 
lotte Amalia  has  taken  the  atmosphere  of  Algiers  and  the 
gorgeous  coloring  of  Venice,  rolled  them  into  one,  and 
reduced  it  to  miniature. 

But  the  place  is  beautiful  only  from  the  ship.  As  soon 
as  the  harbor  doctor  had  approved  our  bill  of  health,  the 
bumboats  swarmed  about  the  ship.  We  were  taken  ashore 
by  an  old  negro  named  Ebenezer.  We  chose  him  from  all 
the  crowd  of  dilapidated  ferrymen  who  had  bid  so  raven- 
ously for  our  traffic,  because  his  white-bearded  face  looked 
the  hungriest.  The  poverty  of  the  negroes  all  through  the 
islands  is  appalling.  Old  Ebenezer  had  never  been  out  of 
St.  Thomas.  And  his  horizon  was  even  narrower  than  the 
land-locked  harbor.  As  he  took  us  in  he  pointed  out  the 
various  places  of  interest — Bluebeard's  castle,  the  factory 
where  the  natives  make  the  bay  rum  which  they  think  has 
made  their  island  famous.  At  last  his  long,  emaciated  finger 
pointed  to  an  uninteresting  modern  building. 

"Th'  Barracks,  suh." 

"Have  they  a  large  garrison  here?"  I  asked. 

"Oh,  yus,  suh!  an  a'my,  suh." 

"How  many?"  I  asked.     "Ten?' 

"Oh,  suh!  No,  suh!  Mo'  than  ten,  suh.  Thu'ty,  sir! 
About  thu'ty,  suh!" 


Ebenezer's  whole  vision  was  on  the  scale  of  a  large  army 
of  about  thirty  men. 

It  was  immediately  after  breakfast  when  we  came  ashore, 
but  the  sun  was  already  hard  at  work.  There  must  have 
been  a  difference  of  twenty  degrees  in  the  temperature 
afloat  and  ashore.  For  when  we  clambered  upon  the  glar- 
ing white  concrete  dock,  the  heat  struck  us  like  a  blow. 
The  town  is  as  uninteresting  as  it  is  hot.  There  are  nine 
hundred  and  ninety-nine  colored  people  to  one  white. 
The  women  were  shapeless,  and  all  seemed  old.  Their  cos- 
tume held  no  picturesqueness.  There  was  rarely  a  touch 
of  color — for  the  most  part  their  dresses  were  of  the  dirtiest 
white.  Poverty  hangs  heavy  over  everything.  The  rich 
forests  which  once  covered  the  hills  have  long  since  passed 
away.  The  soil  is  almost  sterile.  Little  grows  but  the  bay 
tree,  from  which  the  hair  tonic — the  island's  one  industry — 
is  produced.  Steam  traffic  and  cables  have  ruined  the 
place.  The  magnificent  harbor  which  was  once  crowded 
with  sailing  vessels  waiting  for  orders  is  now  almost  de- 

Charlotte  Amalia  is  a  good  place  to  shop,  as  it  is  a  free 
port.  European  goods  can  be  bought  at  fabulously  low 
prices.  While  I  was  stocking  up  on  linen  clothes,  I  was 
approached  by  the  tallest,  lankiest,  blackest  negro  on  the 
island.  "General,"  he  said,  " liketohavesomebodycarry- 
yourgoods?"  I  had  to  make  him  repeat  it  a  dozen  times 
before  I  could  locate  the  spaces  between  the  words.  His 
eyes  were  so  big  and  serious  about  it,  his  general  scenic 
effect  so  unutterably  droll,  that  I  took  him  on,  and  chris- 
tened him  "The  Army."  We  taught  him  to  salute,  right 
about  face,  etc.,  and  loaded  him  up  with  our  bundles  until 
he  looked  more  like  a  pack  mule  than  an  army. 

He  proved  of  great  service  to  one  of  our  party  who  wanted 
to  get  typical  photographs.  He  posed  in  a  dozen  attitudes 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  5 

himself,  procured  other  groups  for  us — an  old  woman  with 
her  hay-laden  ass.  Then  we  began  to  poke  fun  at  him; 
could  he  get  the  prettiest  girl  in  the  town  to  pose  for  us? 
Certainly.  He  disappeared  around  the  corner,  and  came 
back  in  ten  minutes  with  a  girl  who  admitted  that  she  was 
the  belle  of  the  island.  He  was  wonderfully  solemn  about 
it  all. 

"Could  you  bring  us  a  volcano?"  I  asked.  "My  friend 
here  wants  a  picture  of  a  volcano." 

"No,  suh,"  he  said,  saluting  with  the  utmost  seriousness. 
"They  are  not  in  season.  You  can't  get  them  except  in 
May.  Come  back  in  May." 

I  paid  him  off  after  that  and  discharged  him.  I  have  a 
sick  feeling  every  time  I  think  of  it.  My  friends  good- 
naturedly  insist  that  the  man  was  stupid  and  didn't  know 
what  a  volcano  was.  But  much  as  I  would  like  to  believe 
this,  I  can't.  I  think  he  was  paying  me  back  in  my  own 
coin — overpaying  me.  I  don't  think  I'll  go  back  in  May. 

When  the  captain  had  finished  business  with  the  com- 
pany's agent,  he  joined  us  and  led  us  off  in  search  of  refresh- 
ment. The  Grand  Hotel  faces  the  public  square  by  the 
landing-place.  It  is  built  like  first-class  hotels  in  tropical 
cities  the  world  over — thick  white  walls,  high  spacious 
rooms,  and  a  veranda  roofed  over  and  protected  by  many 
blinds  and  sunshades.  The  whole  thing  is  built  on  a  scale 
ten  times  too  big  for  a  little  town  like  Charlotte  Amalia. 
The  great  hall  was  deserted  except  for  a  child  at  play. 
On  the  veranda  a  Danish  officer  was  breakfasting  in  soli- 
tary splendor.  There  was  no  servant  in  sight;  no  bell  with 
which  to  call  one.  The  officer,  seeing  our  helplessness, 
bawled  out  some  Danish  summons  at  the  top  of  his  voice. 
By  and  by  a  waiter  appeared.  He  was  as  black  and  shiny 
as  an  ebony  cane.  He  wore  duck  trousers,  an  open  net- 
work undershirt,  to  which  he  had  added  a  high  celluloid 


collar  and  a  soiled  white  tie.  Could  we  get  some  ices?  He 
did  not  seem  at  all  sure  one  way  or  the  other.  After  severe 
cross-examination  he  admitted  that  he  could  get  some  bot- 
tled kola  for  the  ladies  and  some  beer  for  the  men. 

The  Grand  Hotel  with  its  hundred  empty  guest  rooms, 
its  vast  deserted  veranda,  its  barefooted,  slovenly  servant, 
is  typical  of  this  disappointed  island.  There  is  another 
equally  desolate  hotel  in  St.  Thomas,  called  "1868" — after 
the  great  year  when  King  Christian  the  Ninth  signed  the 
treaty  by  which  he  ceded  his  West  Indian  islands  to  the 
United  States. 

In  those  days  the  people  of  St.  Thomas  dreamed  great 
dreams.  And  these  dreams  were  the  foundation  on  which 
these  great  hotels  were  built.  At  last  the  island  was  to 
recover  from  the  decline  which  steam  shipping  had  brought. 
From  insignificance  it  was  to  rise  to  "The  Gibraltar  of  the 
West" — the  great  naval  outpost  of  the  United  States. 
England  was  spending  millions  on  the  fortifications  of  Ber- 
muda and  St.  Lucia.  Spain  for  centuries  had  been  strength- 
ening San  Juan  in  Porto  Rico  and  the  different  ports  of 
Cuba.  But  St.  Thomas  held  the  key  to  the  Spanish  Main 
— as  a  glance  at  the  map  will  show.  American  gold  and 
American  life  were  to  flow  into  the  port.  For  half  the 
money  the  other  nations  were  spending  on  their  fortresses 
the  harbor  of  St.  Thomas  could  have  been  made  twice  as 
strong.  So  it  was  not  a  baseless  dream. 

A  tornado  and  tidal  wave — the  only  such  catastrophe 
recorded  in  these  islands — spoiled  it  all. 

Our  diplomatic  record  in  regard  to  these  islands  is  the 
blackest  stain  on  the  annals  of  the  Department  of  State — 
and  it  is  to  be  the  more  blushed  at  because  the  nation  we 
slighted  was  too  small  to  resent  the  insult  with  arms.  Dur- 
ing the  Civil  War  the  need  of  a  naval  base  in  the  West 
Indies  became  apparent.  Lincoln  and  Seward  were  greatly 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  1 

interested  in  the  project,  and  St.  Thomas  was  selected  by 
them — as  it  would  have  been  by  any  intelligent  observer. 
It  was  perfectly  fitted  to  our  purpose.  Denmark,  which 
through  the  war  had  been  more  friendly  to  Washington 
than  the  other  European  nations,  needed  money.  The  mat- 
ter was  broached  at  Copenhagen  by  our  diplomats,  and, 
after  considerable  haggling  over  the  price,  was  favorably 
considered.  England  and  Germany,  who  did  not  wish  to 
see  our  hands  strengthened,  objected  as  strongly  as  pos- 
sible. But  Denmark  dared  the  ill-will  of  these  powerful 
neighbors  and  pushed  on  the  negotiations.  The  proceedings 
were  halted  by  the  bullets  which  killed  Lincoln  and  wounded 
Seward.  But  the  matter  was  reopened  as  soon  as  Seward 
had  recovered,  early  in  1866.  He  visited -St.  Thomas  to 
satisfy  himself  that  all  was  as  represented.  Things  moved 
rapidly,  and  in  July,  1867,  Seward  cabled  our  ambassador 
in  Copenhagen:  "Close  with  Denmark's  offer.  St.  Johns, 
St.  Thomas,  seven  and  a  half  million.  Send  ratified  treaty 
immediately."  In  October  the  treaty  was  signed. 

Then  occurred  the  tornado  and  tidal  wave  which  picked 
up  the  old  United  States  frigate  Monongahela  and  stranded 
it  high  and  dry  in  the  middle  of  the  town  of  Santa  Cruz. 
The  ship  was  refloated,  but  the  sensational  stories  of  the 
hurricane  turned  American  sentiment  against  the  island. 

Denmark,  however,  considered  the  preliminary  treaty  as 
binding.  On  the  9th  of  January,  1868,  a  plebiscite  was  held 
on  the  island;  almost  unanimously  the  inhabitants  voted 
for  the  transfer.  The  Danish  Rigsdad  formally  ratified  the 
treaty.  And  poor  old  King  Christian  sent  out  a  pathetic 
proclamation  to  his  West  Indian  subjects: 

".  .  .  With  sincere  sorrow  do  we  look  forward  to  the 
severance  of  those  ties  which  for  so  many  years  have  united 
you  to  the  mother  country.  .  .  .  We  trust  that  nothing 
has  been  neglected  upon  our  side  to  secure  the  future  wel- 


fare  of  our  beloved  and  faithful  subjects,  and  that  a  mighty 
impulse,  both  moral  and  material,  will  be  given  to  the  happy 
development  of  the  islands  under  the  new  sovereignty. 
Commending  you  to  God,  .  .  ." 

Our  Senate  was  pledged  to  ratify  the  treaty  within  four 
months.  Action  was  postponed  two  years.  And  mean- 
while the  treaty  became  buried  in  some  pigeon-hole  of  the 
Committee  on  Foreign  Relations.  King  Christian  had  to 
swallow  the  insult  as  best  he  could,  and  the  islanders  re- 
gretfully returned  to  their  old  allegiance. 

Negotiations  were  renewed  from  time  to  time,  and  hope 
still  lived  in  St.  Thomas  until  the  Spanish  War  gave  us  a 
naval  base  at  Culebra.  Then  hopeless  disappointment  set- 
tled down  on  the  island. 

It  was  still  night  when  we  sighted  Martinique.  The 
black  shaft  of  Mont  Pelee  pushed  up  through  the  semi- 
darkness  to  what  seemed  a  ghastly  height.  The  top  spur 
was  lost  in  the  clouds.  But  as  the  dawn  came  up  out  of 
the  sea  the  air  cleared  and  the  sinister  peak  stood  out  clear- 
cut  and  cruel.  The  sides  of  the  mountain  are  a  dark, 
angry  red,  scarred  by  innumerable  black  ravines.  It  is 
rendered  more  appalling  by  the  contrast  of  its  barren  flanks 
with  the  luxurious  vegetation  below.  The  towering  cone 
would  be  a  fearsome  thing  to  see  even  to  one  who  did  not 
know  its  murderous  history. 

About  the  skirts  of  the  island  runs  a  golden-green  fringe 
of  cane-brakes;  above  are  heavy  forests  of  tamarind,  mango, 
and  cabinet  woods — the  darkest  shades  of  green;  below  are 
the  red  rocks  and  the  sea.  The  shores  rise  sheer  from  the 
deep  water,  and  we  passed  in  close  enough  to  see  the  white- 
clad  natives  at  work  in  the  fields.  The  plantations  run 
high  up  the  slopes  to  the  "Great  Woods,"  and,  like  French 
agriculture  everywhere,  show  minute  care  and  a  high  de- 

TEE   SEA    EOUTE  9 

gree  of  culture.  A  farm  road  circles  the  island,  dotted 
here  and  there  with  white-walled  homesteads,  half  hidden 
in  luxuriant  gardens.  Sleepy,  nodding  cocoa  palms  are 
grouped  about  most  of  the  houses,  and  in  every  garden  are 
the  " flambeau"  trees — red  and  brilliant  as  a  Kentucky 

We  passed  within  sight  of  the  gray  blotch  of  ruins  which 
was  once  St.  Pierre.  It  is  scarcely  a  dozen  years  since  Mont 
Pelee  exploded  and  blotted  out  this  gay  city,  this  Paris  of 
the  West,  but  stories  which  are  told  about  it  are  already 
becoming  legendary.  If,  for  instance,  you  grumble  at  the 
lack  of  good  hotels  in  the  West  Indies,  some  one  is  sure  to 
say:  "Ah!  you  should  have  seen  St.  Pierre;  there  were  no 
better  hotels  in  Europe — and  the  cafe's!  Why,  the  Rue 
Victor  Hugo  looked  like  the  Boulevard  des  Italiens."  Or, 
if  you  find  life  in  the  islands  dull,  you  are  straightway 
assured  that  St.  Pierre  was  gayety  itself.  There  was  a 
theatre  at  St.  Pierre.  There  was  a  promenade  in  the 
botanical  gardens,  where  a  band  played  every  afternoon, 
where  ravishing  Creole  beauties  smiled  at  you.  The  legend 
is  explicit  in  this  matter.  The  beauties  of  St.  Pierre  smiled 
at  all  strangers.  There  is  not  an  old  timer  in  the  islands 
who  was  not  a  hero  in  a  St.  Pierre  romance.  And  on  the 
8th  of  May,  1902,  a  little  after  early  Mass,  Mont  Pele"e 
with  its  torrent  of  fire  wiped  out  St.  Pierre  and  its  gayety, 
and  all  but  one  of  its  thirty-five  thousand  inhabitants. 
Nothing  is  left  but  the  dreariest  of  dreary  ruins. 

Farther  down  the  coast  is  Fort  de  France.  It  does  not 
pretend  to  be  what  St.  Pierre  was,  but  still  it  is  a  fascinat- 
ing city.  The  harbor,  which  is  unusually  good,  is  made 
picturesque  by  an  old  fort  which  is  gray  with  history. 
The  English  captured  it  in  1762,  again  in  1781,  1794,  and 
1809.  After  Waterloo  the  island  was  restored  to  France, 
and  it  is  thoroughly  French.  It  was  hot,  but  the  heat  was 

10  P-ANAMA 

soon  forgotten  in  the  joy  of  being  again  on  French  soil. 
The  mansard  roofs,  the  iron  balconies,  the  brass  bowls 
before  the  shops  of  the  hair-dressers,  the  patisseries,  the 
gendarmes — everything  recalled  the  cities  of  France.  There 
are  two  department  stores  called  "Au  bon  marche*."  A 
provincial  French  town  without  two  such  stores  would  be 
as  incomplete  as  an  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin  road  company 
without  two  Topsies. 

But  of  more  brilliant  color  and  varied  interest  than  the 
stores  are  the  open  markets.  In  the  early  morning  they 
are  crowded  with  natives,  sellers  of  fruit  and  vegetables, 
crude  pottery,  and  general  merchandise.  There  is  an  in- 
cessant din  of  bargaining  in  the  queer  French  patois — of 
which  I  could  not  catch  one  word  in  ten. 

The  crossing  of  races  has  gone  to  the  extreme  in  Marti- 
nique. I  had  never  before  realized  how  many  different 
shades  there  are  of  black.  Of  the  180,000  inhabitants  very 
few  are  pure  black,  and  fewer  are  pure  white.  The  over- 
whelming majority  are  of  various  degrees  of  mixed  blood. 
But  they  are  a  comely  race — in  striking  contrast  with  the 
natives  of  the  northern  islands.  The  women  are  lithe  and 
well  formed,  many  of  them  fit  models  for  sculpture.  Their 
dresses  are  a  riot  of  color.  The  length  of  their  skirts  is  a 
mark  of  their  station  in  life.  A  well-to-do  Creole  will  have 
hers  made  three  feet  too  long  in  front,  with  a  train  of  five 
or  six  feet  behind.  They  wear  a  sort  of  belt  below  the  hips 
and  tuck  up  their  skirts,  by  this  means,  to  whatever  height 
their  occupation  demands.  In  their  anxiety  to  protect 
them  from  the  dirt  of  the  streets  it  is  evident  that  their 
skirts  are  worn  solely  as  a  decoration,  and  not  at  all  from 
a  sense  of  modesty.  It  is  a  striking  example  of  Professor 
Veblin's  "Theory  of  Conspicuous  Waste."  Another  thing 
which  attracted  my  attention  was  that,  while  most  of  the 
women  were  barefoot,  some  wore  a  slipper  on  one  foot, 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  11 

invariably  the  left  foot.  I  asked  a  policeman  why  this  was. 
He  looked  at  me  with  condescending  pity  at  my  ignorance. 

"Is  it  not  Holy  Week?"  he  asked. 

Perhaps  to  one  more  familiar  than  I  with  the  rites  of  the 
Church  in  the  tropics  this  may  be  an  explanation,  but  to 
me  it  only  deepened  the  mystery. 

The  turbans  of  the  women  are  quite  wonderful  affairs, 
and  the  bandanna  about  their  necks  completes  a  close  har- 
mony of  color  which  makes  a  parrakeet  look  like  an  ama- 

The  custom  of  carrying  everything  on  their  heads  has 
given  the  people  a  strange  stride,  in  which  the  knee  joint 
is  unused.  This  custom — if  continued  indefinitely — will 
surely  result  in  the  atrophying  of  their  arms.  It  is  no 
exaggeration  to  say  they  carry  everything  on  their  heads. 
I  saw  one  woman  with  a  baby  buggy  balanced  on  her  tur- 
ban. I  was  not  near  enough  to  see  if  there  was  a  baby 
in  it.  But  the  greatest  marvel  was  a  big  buck  negro,  with 
perfectly  good  arms.  He  was  strolling  down  the  street  with 
a  soiled  and  dilapidated  brickbat  on  his  head.  I  stopped 
him,  and  asked  why  he  carried  with  so  much  care  so  worth- 
less a  piece  of  rubbish.  He  took  off  the  brickbat  and  showed 
me  a  letter  he  was  carrying,  and  explained  that  he  had  to 
put  on  some  weight  to  keep  the  wind  from  blowing  it  away. 

After  the  monotony  of  the  ship's  fare  a  chance  at  French 
cooking  was  not  to  be  missed.  At  the  Grand  Hotel  de 
PEurope  I  found  a  chef  with  the  true  artistic  instinct.  He 
came  up,  dusted  all  over  with  flour,  from  his  oven,  where 
he  was  concocting  a  pate.  Delighted  at  the  idea  of  an 
appreciative  patron,  he  sat  down  with  me  in  the  cafe*  and 
sketched  out  a  dejeuner.  He  was  from  the  Faubourg  St. 
Antoine,  and  it  was  delightful  to  hear  the  twang  of  a  true 
Parisian  accent  after  the  slovenly  patois  of  the  natives. 
The  lunch  was  ready  at  noon,  and  he  had  done  himself 


proud.  There  was  a  fragrant  melon,  the  pdte  of  calf  brains 
at  which  I  had  found  him  working,  chicken  en  casserole,  a 
salad,  and  dessert.  The  only  false  note  was  the  coffee. 
It  was  native.  There  are  people  who  claim  that  West 
Indian  coffee  is  superior  to  all  others.  But  it  must  be  an 
acquired  taste. 

Later  in  the  day  I  presented  a  letter  of  introduction  to 
the  agent  of  an  American  business  house.  He  came  from 
the  north  of  Maine,  of  French-Canadian  ancestry,  and  was 
as  out  of  place  in  the  tropics  as  a  snowball  would  be.  And 
the  fever  was  melting  him  away  as  fast  as  if  he  had  been 
one.  His  hatred  of  the  place  was  pathetic.  He  took  me 
over  his  house,  pointing  out  all  the  villainies  of  life  in  Fort 
de  France. 

"Look!"  he  said,  with  the  eloquent  gestures  he  had  in- 
herited from  his  forebears.  "Look!  look  at  this  room! 
They  called  it  a  kitchen!  And  that — that  is  supposed  to  be 
a  stove.  And  here,  look  at  this — it  is  supposed  to  be  a 
bathtub!  Not  for  horses — for  us!  Every  time  my  wife 
takes  a  bath  in  it  she  cries!" 

He  was  perfectly  speechless,  he  told  me  volubly,  over  the 
lack  of  sanitary  conveniences.  He  was  a  grotesque  old 
Northerner  in  his  crisp  white  ducks,  and  it  was  hard  not 
to  laugh.  But  the  Tropics  will  kill  him  if  he  is  not  re- 

The  show-place  of  Fort  de  France  is  the  "Savane,"  the 
great  open  square,  where,  surrounded  by  a  circle  of  mag- 
nificent royal  palms,  is  the  marble  statue  of  Josephine. 
I  did  not  view  it  at  close  quarters,  for  it  was  raised  by 
Napoleon  III,  and  the  official  sculpture  of  the  Second 
Empire  could  never  tempt  me  to  walk  a  hundred  yards  in 
a  broiling  sun.  But  seen  from  the  shaded  cafe*  of  the 
Hotel  de  P  Europe,  it  is  exquisite  in  its  setting.  Pure  white, 
under  the  gigantic  palms,  it  is  outlined  against  a  heavy 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  13 

green  background  of  mango  trees.  Off  to  the  right,  past 
the  moss-grown  old  fort,  you  can  see  a  clump  of  cocoa 
palms  on  the  other  side  of  the  bay.  It  is  the  plantation  of 
La  Pagerie,  where  the  Empress  was  born.  Some  ruins  of 
the  old  house  where  she  passed  the  first  fifteen  years  of  her 
life  still  stand. 

My  memories  of  Martinique  center  about  a  woman  whose 
life  had  been  almost  as  eventful  as  that  of  the  sad  Empress. 
I  saw  her  first  in  the  early  morning.  When  our  ship  cast 
anchor,  we  were  surrounded,  as  usual,  by  a  swarm  of  little 
boats.  They  had  to  keep  back  a  few  hundred  feet  until 
the  Harbor  Master  had  come  aboard  and  lowered  our  yel- 
low flag.  Watching  them,  I  noticed  another  boat  a  hundred 
yards  beyond  this  circle.  It  was  manned  by  two  sturdy 
blacks,  and  in  the  stern-sheets  sat  a  woman  in  a  heavy 
widow's  veil.  The  moment  our  quarantine  flag  dropped 
she  gave  an  order  to  her  men  and  they  rowed  rapidly  along- 
side. She  did  not  wait  for  her  meagre  trunk  to  be  hoisted 
over  the  side,  but  disappeared  immediately  in  her  state- 

I  found  the  affair  quite  mysterious;  for  our  boat  was  to 
stay  twelve  hours  in  port,  and  people  are  not  generally  in 
such  a  hurry  to  come  aboard.  And  even  more  unusual 
was  the  lack  of  any  one  to  see  her  off;  for  in  this  neigh- 
borly climate  there  is  generally  quite  a  formidable  mob  of 
friends  on  the  dock,  and  leave-takings  are  loud  and  volum- 

But  the  interest  of  things  ashore  drove  the  thought  of 
this  solitary  woman  from  my  mind  until,  back  in  the  ship 
at  dinner,  I  found  her  seated  beside  me.  She  had  thrown 
the  heavy  veil  back  over  her  shoulder.  Her  profile  was  of 
the  purest  French  type;  long,  drooping  eyelashes  held  a 
suggestion  of  Creole  blood,  but  it  must  have  been  a  very 
slight  mixture  and  many  generations  back.  She  knew  no 


English,  so  I  became  acquainted  with  her,  helping  her 
decipher  the  bill  of  fare.  She  accepted  my  aid  with  gra- 
cious reserve.  Her  long,  delicate  hands,  the  gentle  refine- 
ment of  her  manners,  spoke  of  race  and  good  breeding. 

We  were  scheduled  to  sail  at  eight,  but  for  some  reason 
we  were  delayed.  And  after  dinner,  as  I  was  pacing  the 
deck,  she  came  to  me  and  asked — with  a  vain  effort  to  hide 
her  anxiety — if  I  knew  how  soon  we  would  leave.  The 
farewell  whistle  had  blown  a  few  minutes  before,  and  I 
told  her  we  were  going  at  once.  But  this  did  not  reassure 
her,  and  I  had  to  go  forward  to  get  definite  word  from  the 
captain.  Before  I  could  rejoin  her,  the  anchor  was  up  and 
we  were  swinging  out  of  the  harbor.  I  found  her  settling 
herself  comfortably  in  a  steamer  chair.  The  look  of  worry 
had  given  place  to  one  of  exceeding  good  cheer. 

"May  I  trouble  you  once  more,  Monsieur? "  she  said. 
"Have  you  a  match?" 

I  had,  and  I  asked  permission  to  draw  up  my  chair  and 
smoke  with  her.  Her  face  was  animated,  and  she  seemed 
to  welcome  a  chance  to  talk.  There  were  a  great  many 
questions  about  America — a  strange  country  to  her — and 
then  about  myself.  When  I  told  her  that  I  was  a  writer, 
her  face,  which  was  ever  a  mirror  of  her  thoughts,  clouded 

"Madame  does  not  like  journalists?"  I  asked. 

"Oh,  yes,  I  do,"  and  she  laughed  merrily.  "My  hus- 
band is  an  editor." 

Her  use  of  the  present  tense  surprised  me,  as  I  had 
thought  her  a  widow.  After  this  beginning,  she  told  me 
much  of  her  own  story.  When  she  was  eight  years  old, 
her  father,  who  had  been  one  of  the  richest  ship-owners  in 
St.  Pierre,  lost  his  life  in  a  hurricane  only  a  quarter  of  a 
mile  from  the  port.  Thrice  she  had  had  the  roof  blown  off 
her  house  by  the  hurricanes.  After  her  father's  death  she 

THE   SEA    ROUTE  15 

had  been  sent  to  a  convent  in  Paris  for  her  education.  At 
fifteen  she  had  returned  to  the  reckless  city  of  St.  Pierre.  It 
had  been  a  gay  time  of  balls  and  picnics  and  much  court- 
ing. Before  seventeen  she  had  married  a  professor  in  the 
high  school. 

"My  mother  did  not  approve/'  she  said,  "but  it  was  a 
true  marriage  of  the  heart." 

And  then  her  husband  had  "fallen  in  love  with  politics" 
— such  was  her  expression.  And  politics  in  the  French 
islands  is  a  sad  thing. 

The  negroes  have  developed  no  ability  for  good  govern- 
ment. It  is  more  than  a  century  since  Toussaint  1'Ouver- 
ture  drove  the  whites  away  from  the  neighboring  island  of 
Hayti.  Since  then  the  Black  Republic  has  had  external 
peace.  But  its  internal  history  has  been  one  long  record 
of  bloodshed  and  tyranny.  And  there  is  probably  no  place 
in  the  Western  Hemisphere  marked  with  such  utter  degra- 
dation. The  French  have  kept  a  certain  control  over  their 
two  other  islands — Guadeloupe  and  Martinique.  But  it  has 
not  been  an  efficient  control,  and  while  the  French  negroes 
have  not  become  so  debased  as  in  Hayti,  they  are  in  pretty 
sore  straits.  "The  Rights  of  Man"  are  in  full  swing  in 
these  colonies;  adult  men  vote,  irrespective  of  color.  As 
the  whites  are  vastly  outnumbered,  nearly  all  the  officials, 
except  the  Governor  and  the  gendarmes,  who  are  sent  out 
from  France,  are  black.  The  islands  which  are  unusually 
blessed  by  nature,  and  were  formerly  exceedingly  prosper- 
ous, are  dying  of  the  dry-rot  of  political  corruption.  The 
French  Chamber  is  now  investigating  the  affairs  of  Guade- 
loupe. The  scandal  which  started  with  the  negro  deputy 
has  involved  almost  all  the  officials,  notably  the  judi- 

Things  were  just  as  bad  in  Martinique.  My  acquaint- 
ance's husband  had  tried  to  bring  reform  by  founding  a 


new  party — a  coalition  of  the  whites  and  the  more  respon- 
sible blacks — against  the  corrupt  gang  of  mulattoes  led  by 
the  Deputy  Severe.  Her  husband  left  his  school  work  and 
founded  a  paper — with  her  money,  I  judged. 

By  chance  they  were  visiting  his  family  at  Fort  de  France 
at  the  time  of  the  eruption  of  Mont  Pele"e.  But  every  one 
of  her  relatives  perished  at  St.  Pierre.  He  pushed  on  his 
political  work  with  success,  and  in  1907,  in  the  campaign 
for  the  Conseil  Ge"ne"ral,  the  new  party  elected  all  but  two 
of  the  Councillors.  The  following  May  the  time  came  for 
the  election  of  the  municipal  officers  of  Fort  de  France. 
The  coalition  nominated  a  negro  named  Labat  for  Mayor. 
The  old  Mayor,  Antoine  Siger,  was  nominated  by  the 
mulatto  gang  to  succeed  himself.  Feeling  ran  high,  but 
the  defeat  of  the  grafters  seemed  certain.  At  the  last  mo- 
ment the  old  Mayor  appointed  the  boss,  Severe,  President 
of  the  Election  Board.  It  was  as  though  some  Tammany 
mayor  had  chosen  Tweed  to  count  the  ballots.  Labat,  with 
several  supporters,  went  to  the  Hotel  de  Ville  to  try  to  ar- 
range for  a  more  trustworthy  Election  Board.  A  number  of 
shots  were  fired,  and  Siger,  who  stood  close  beside  Labat, 
was  killed. 

"The  shots  were  meant  for  Labat,"  she  said.  "It  was 
the  old  gang  who  fired.  Why  should  we  have  killed  Siger? 
We  were  sure  of  winning  the  election.  But  the  administra- 
tion was  all  against  us;  the  Advocate-General,  all  the 
judges,  owed  their  positions  to  Severe.  So  they  tried  to 
convict  the  leaders  of  our  party.  My  husband  was  away 
in  the  interior,  voting  from  our  estate,  but  they  arrested 
him  too.  The  trial  lasted  a  long  time,  but  they  only  proved 
the  guilt  of  their  own  party. 

"  The  day  after  Siger  was  killed  there  was  another  panic. 
It  was  terrible.  The  whites  expected  a  negro  uprising. 
The  old  gang  had  told  the  blacks  that  we  were  planning 

TEE   SEA    ROUTE  17 

to  massacre  them.  And  the  Governor  from  France,  who  is 
a  fool,  made  matters  worse." 

Since  this  tragedy  Fort  de  France  has  been  governed 
administratively.  No  elections  being  permitted,  the  old 
corrupt  gang  is  still  in  power.  Nothing  but  the  presence 
of  the  mounted  gendarmes,  who  patrol  the  island  day  and 
night,  prevents  wholesale  bloodshed.  As  it  is,  duelling  is 
incessant.  Her  husband  had  been  challenged  three  times  in 
the  last  year.  He  was  wounded  in  the  first  encounter, 
drew  blood  in  the  second,  killed  his  man  in  the  third.  As  a 
result,  he  had  been  compelled  to  flee  away  by  night  to  the 
neighboring  English  island  of  St.  Lucia.  She  had  stayed 
behind  in  Martinique  to  keep  his  paper  alive.  But  every 
day  she  had  been  insulted  in  the  street,  every  mail  brought 
threatening  letters,  at  night  she  slept  with  a  revolver  under 
her  pillow.  At  last  she  could  stand  it  no  longer,  and  was 
now  on  her  way  to  join  her  husband.  Afraid  of  some  hos- 
tile demonstration — even  of  arrest  if  her  departure  were 
known — she  had  masked  as  a  widow  and  had  been  rowed 
aboard,  not  from  the  public  dock,  but  from  the  plantation 
of  a  friend  farther  down  the  bay. 

We  sat  up  all  through  the  soft  southern  night — it  was 
useless,  she  said,  for  her  to  try  to  sleep — talking  of  the  polit- 
ical tangles  of  the  colony.  It  was  a  sordid,  almost  hopeless, 
story  that  she  told.  It  was  not  exaggerated,  for  I  have  since 
had  opportunity  to  verify  it. 

The  morning  held  another  surprise  for  me.  As  we  drew 
up  to  the  dock  at  St.  Lucia,  I  saw  a  man  running  wildly 
towards  us.  And  it  is  not  often  that  you  see  a  well-dressed 
man  running  in  the  West  Indies.  He  wore  a  spotless  white 
suit  and  an  elegant  drooping  Panama  hat.  He  was  a  negro 
— as  black  as  the  coal-piles  ashore. 

"Mon  mari!"  And  my  beautiful  lady  was  leaning  over 
the  rail,  frantically  throwing  kisses  to  the  grinning  black. 


As  soon  as  the  gangplank  was  down  he  dashed  aboard  and 
into  her  arms.  I  have  seldom  seen  a  more  affectionate 

Barbados  is  not  very  impressive  from  the  sea.  It  is  a 
coral  island  and  flat.  But  the  open  harbor  of  Carlisle  Bay 
is  one  of  the  busiest  ports  in  the  West  Indies.  Anchored  in 
between  the  great  seagoing  steamers  is  a  host  of  small 
fishing-boats.  One  of  the  first  things  you  notice  as  your 
ship  comes  to  anchor — one  of  the  things  which  distinguish 
Barbados  from  the  other  islands — is  the  number  of  trim 
police-boats  which  dart  about  the  harbor,  bringing  order 
out  of  a  maze  of  traffic  much  as  a  London  "bobby"  controls 
things  on  the  Strand. 

In  the  first  quarter  of  the  seventeenth  century  a  ship, 
bearing  English  colonists  to  a  neighboring  island,  cast 
anchor  off  Barbados.  A  landing  party  went  ashore,  and, 
finding  it  a  rich  country,  carved  into  the  bark  of  a  mango 
tree:  "James,  King  of  England  and  this  island."  Since 
then  the  sovereignty  of  Great  Britain  has  been  continuous. 
And  Barbados  stands  in  striking  contrast  to  the  other 
islands,  which  have  changed  their  flags  almost  as  frequently 
as  the  neighboring  Latin-American  republics  have  changed 
their  Presidents. 

The  police-boats  in  the  harbor  are  only  a  foretaste  of  the 
orderliness  which  meets  you  ashore.  The  fruits  of  the  three- 
hundred-year  English  rule  are  apparent  everywhere.  So 
impressive  was  the  law-abiding  air  of  the  place  that  one  of 
the  first  things  I  did  was  to  drive  out  to  the  centre  of  all 
this  order — the  police  headquarters. 

Starting  from  the  miniature  Trafalgar  Square  in  the 
miniature  metropolis  of  Bridgetown,  the  carriage  passed 
along  the  most  beautiful,  the  most  superbly  kept  road  I 

THE   SEA    ROUTE  19 

have  ever  seen.  It  is  of  coral  rock,  which  disintegrates  in 
the  air  till  it  looks  like  cement  and  is  almost  as  soft  as  turf. 
On  each  side  are  low  white  walls,  over  which  hang  the  gor- 
geous blossoms  of  the  tropics — the  brilliant  red  hibiscus,  a 
deep  purple  wistaria-like  trailer,  and  an  occasional  flam- 
beau tree.  Towering  above  you  all  along  the  way  are  the 
most  magnificent  of  all  trees — the  royal  palms,  lofty  Doric 
columns  of  living  marble,  crowned  with  superb  capitals  of 
agate  green.  And  back  of  the  flowering  gardens,  under 
these  graceful  giant  palms,  are  neat,  prosperous-looking 
English  homes.  Their  wide  bungalow  verandas  give  an 
impression  of  cool,  care-free,  almost  lazy  ease. 

Then,  abruptly,  come  the  suburbs  of  negro  slums,  cabins 
of  palm-thatch,  old  boards,  and  scraps  of  corrugated  iron. 
The  shacks  are  so  crowded  together,  the  alleyways  so  choked 
with  children,  that  it  makes  an  ordinary  ant-hill  seem 
sparsely  settled.  It  is  appalling.  In  our  city  slums  more 
than  half  the  misery  and  indecency  of  overcrowding  is  hid- 
den by  substantial  walls.  Here  it  is  all  open  to  the  eye — 
and  unspeakably  ugly. 

It  is  a  vast  relief  when  the  road  comes  to  open  country. 
The  white  garden  walls  of  the  English,  the  squalid  hovels  of 
the  blacks,  give  place  to  the  dense  golden-green  cane-brakes. 
On  every  hillock  there  is  a  fat,  stolid  Dutch  windmill,  which 
looks  weirdly  out  of  place  among  the  cocoa  palms.  Here 
and  there  you  see  a  blotch  of  darker  green — the  park  which 
surrounds  some  manor  house. 

After  half  an  hour's  drive  we  came  to  such  a  park,  and, 
turning  in  through  the  gateway,  found  a  charming,  well- 
kept  garden.  The  carriage  stopped  before  a  low  but  spa- 
cious bungalow.  There  was  nothing  to  show  that  it  was 
not  a  private  home  except  for  the  sentry  before  the  door. 

In  a  reception-room  upstairs  filled  with  military  pictures 
and  portraits  of  the  royal  family  I  found  Colonel  Kaye,  the 


Inspector-General.  He  is  so  gracious  that  he  seems  more 
at  home  on  the  veranda  of  the  Savannah  Club  than  at  Head- 
quarters. But  this  mild-mannered  gentleman  is  police  chief 
over  a  population  of  nearly  200,000,  only  16,000  of  whom  are 
white.  There  are  166  square  miles  in  the  island;  it  is  the 
most  densely  populated  agricultural  district  in  the  world. 

"However,  there  is  not  much  crime,"  Colonel  Kaye  re- 
marked. And,  to  prove  his  statement,  he  showed  me  the 
calendar  of  the  Supreme  Court,  which  was  about  to  con- 
vene. "There  are  only  fifteen  cases  of  felony  this  term. 
The  court  sits  every  four  months.  Say  an  average  of  fifty 
serious  crimes  a  year." 

He  said  this  in  a  matter-of-fact  way,  with  no  show  of 
pride.  But  I  doubt  if  there  is  any  community  of  200,000 
in  America  which  could  make  so  good  a  showing.  There 
are  no  regular  troops  in  Barbados.  A  handful  of  white 
men  rule  175,000  negroes  and  keep  the  rate  of  felonies 
down  to  fifty  a  year! 

"The  crime  which  gives  us  most  trouble,"  continued  the 
Colonel,  "is  setting  fire  to  the  sugar-cane.  This  offence 
comes  from  three  sources:  Sometimes  the  boys  do  it — just 
to  see  the  blaze.  Sometimes  a  man  who  has  been  dis- 
charged does  it  for  revenge.  But  generally  it  is  in  order 
to  get  work.  When  the  cane  has  been  scorched,  it  has  to 
be  milled  at  once." 

And  this  points  to  an  added  wonder.  The  mass  of  the 
negroes  are  deathly  poor.  During  the  few  months  of  har- 
vest and  planting  an  able-bodied  man  on  the  sugar  estates 
earns  twenty  cents  a  day.  But  during  the  long  winter 
months  some  become  so  utterly  destitute  that  they  put  a 
torch  to  the  cane — and  risk  ten  years  of  penal  servitude — 
to  hasten  the  harvest  and  their  chance  at  twenty  cents  a 
day.  Yet  in  spite  of  such  poverty  there  are  only  fifty 
serious  crimes  a  year. 



TEE   SEA    ROUTE  21 

Colonel  Kaye,  like  all  the  Englishmen  I  met  on  the  island, 
was  convinced  that  the  quiet  and  order  in  Barbados  is  due 
to  the  limited  suffrage.  The  right  to  vote  depends  on  the 
ownership  of  considerable  property.  This  qualification 
eliminates  many  of  the  poorer  whites,  the  descendants  of 
the  indentured  servants,  and  almost  all  the  negroes. 

The  race  domination  is  frankly  acknowledged.  The 
island  has  always  been  and  still  is  run  for  the  whites — "the 
better-class  whites."  The  abolition  of  slavery  in  1834  did 
not  alter  this  in  the  least.  Accepting  this  premise,  the 
island  is  well  run,  very  well  run.  It  is  a  heavenly  place 
to  live  for  the  white  man  who  can  ignore  the  frightful 
misery  of  the  negroes.  And  there  can  be  no  doubt  that 
the  English  residents  succeed  in  shutting  their  eyes  to  every- 
thing which  is  unpleasant  or  threatening.  They  get  more 
pleasure  out  of  existence  than  any  people  with  whom  I 
have  ever  mingled.  It  is  an  energetic,  gay  life  of  outdoor 
sports,  cold  baths,  picnics  and  balls,  afternoon  tea,  and  iced 

The  social  life  centers  in  the  parish  of  Hastings,  two 
miles  down  the  coast  from  Bridgetown.  The  beautiful 
parade  of  the  deserted  barracks  has  been  turned  into  a 
playground.  The  Savannah  Club,  on  a  polo  day,  realizes 
the  English  ideal  of  gayety.  The  wide,  shaded  verandas 
are  crowded  with  fair-complexioned  English  girls  in  lawn 
dresses — just  such  as  are  to  be  seen  at  a  Henley  boat  race  or 
the  Derby.  Clean-limbed,  clear-skinned  Englishmen,  in  flan- 
nels, stroll  about  between  the  tea-tables  trying  to  be  senti- 
mental without  looking  so.  Inside  is  a  cardroom  where 
"bridge"  is  being  taken  seriously.  The  inveterate  golfers 
are  off  early,  as  their  course  crosses  the  polo  field.  Tennis 
is  in  full  swing  on  half  a  dozen  excellent  courts.  The  gray- 
heads  and  children  are  busy  on  the  croquet  grounds.  The 
polo  ponies  are  being  rubbed  and  saddled.  At  last  the 


Governor  and  his  American  wife  drive  up  in  their  trap. 
The  police  band  begins  to  play,  and  the  game  begins.  The 
scene  recalls  some  of  Kipling's  stories  of  the  "hill  life"  at 

A  quarter  of  a  mile  farther  down  the  coast  is  the  great 
Marine  Hotel,  the  largest  and  by  far  the  best  hotel  I  found 
in  the  West  Indies.  It  is  the  scene  of  the  big  island  dances, 
and  is  almost  as  important  to  the  social  life  of  the  place  as 
the  Club.  In  its  lobbies  you  meet  Britishers  from  South 
America  and  the  islands  waiting  for  the  Royal  Mail  boat 
home.  They  are  a  sturdy,  adventurous  people.  But  it  is 
an  aggravating  fact  that  they  will  not  tell  the  stories — such 
fascinating  stories  they  might  be — with  which  their  frontier 
life  has  been  filled.  The  taciturnity  of  a  Londoner  never 
troubles  my  spirit — how  could  a  dweller  in  the  dismal  city 
have  anything  interesting  to  say?  But  when  I  meet  a 
Britisher  fresh  from  the  jungle,  tanned  and  scarred,  who 
refuses  to  talk  about  anything  but  the  new  Dreadnoughts, 
I  grind  my  teeth  and  curse  the  law  against  manslaughter. 

It  is  not  quite  all  gayety  in  Barbados.  Sometimes — not 
often — I  heard  complaints  about  the  steady  fall  in  the  price 
of  sugar.  As  this  is  the  one  industry  of  the  island,  and  the 
price  has  been  falling  for  many  years,  it  is  a  serious  problem 
to  the  thoughtful.  But  I  found  very  few  who  were  willing 
to  do  so  gloomy  a  thing  as  think  about  the  future.  One  of 
the  most  popular  social  functions  of  the  island  is  furnished 
by  the  auction  sales.  I  was  invited  to  a  tennis  party  one 
afternoon,  and  when  I  arrived  I  found  the  plans  were 

"The  Broughton  auction  sale  is  set  for  to-day,  so  we 
decided  to  go  over  and  see  it  instead  of  playing  tennis," 
my  hostess  said. 

We  all  piled  into  carriages,  and,  after  a  beautiful  ride 
into  the  interior,  we  turned  through  an  old  gateway,  past 

THE   SEA    EOUTE  23 

an  Elizabethan  lodge  built  of  coral  stone,  into  a  century- 
old  park.  Up  the  drive  I  could  see  an  old  manor  house, 
which,  if  it  were  not  for  the  palms  and  the  flaming  hibiscus, 
might  well  have  been  in  Surrey  or  Kent.  There  was  a 
crowd  of  carriages  about  the  door;  the  stable  court  was  full 
of  them.  The  porch  was  dense  with  well-dressed  people,  as 
though  it  were  some  grand  reception. 

"All  the  best  people  come  to  the  auctions,"  my  hostess 
said.  "Even  the  Governor  comes  sometimes." 

As  we  drove  up  there  was  a  clamor  of  merry  greetings, 
for  in  Barbados  everybody  who  is  anybody  knows  every- 
body else  who  is  anybody.  We  pushed  our  way  through  the 
crowd  into  the  dismantled  house.  The  rooms  were  splen- 
didly large,  decorated  after  the  noble  old  English  fashion; 
the  woodwork — some  of  it  finely  carved — was  almost  all 
mahogany.  But  the  carpets  were  up,  the  furniture  ranged 
stiffly  along  the  wall,  everything  movable  was  numbered. 
The  sale  was  in  progress  in  the  dining-room.  The  great 
mahogany  table  was  loaded  down  with  plate  and  glassware 
and  porcelain.  It  was  being  sold  in  blocks  at  a  pitifully 
low  price.  And  there  was  the  finest  mahogany  sideboard 
I  have  ever  seen.  It  was  simple  in  its  craftsmanship; 
almost  all  the  lines  were  straight;  but  it  was  marvellously 
heavy,  built  in  the  old  days  when  the  precious  wood  was 
as  cheap  in  the  islands  as  pine.  It  had  been  in  the  family 
over  a  century.  And  it  sold  for  forty  dollars!  Such  a 
piece  could  not  be  bought  on  Fifth  Avenue  for  five  hun- 
dred. I  was  tempted  to  bid — it  was  such  a  rare  old  treas- 
ure— but  I  never  hope  to  have  a  house  big  enough  to 
hold  it. 

My  party  had  not  come  to  buy — it  was  only  a  social 
reunion.  Most  of  the  island  aristocracy  was  there,  and 
every  one  enjoyed  himself  immensely.  Out  in  the  corridor 
I  noticed  a  lonely  group  of  furniture  labelled  "Not  for  sale." 


There  were  a  tall  hall-clock  of  ancient  make,  a  high-backed 
rocking-chair,  and  two  family  portraits. 

"Isn't  it  a  shame!"  I  heard  some  one  say.  "I  would 
like  to  buy  that  clock." 

It  seemed  cruel  to  want  to  take  even  these  few  relics. 
I  wondered  what  last  leaf  of  this  fine  old  family  of  Brough- 
tons  had  saved  these  tokens  out  of  the  wreck.  The  old 
high-back  chair — how  many  generations  of  happy  mothers 
had  rocked  their  babies  to  sleep  in  it !  And  now  the  young- 
est of  the  line  cannot  find  heart  to  part  with  it.  Some  old 
maid  she  is,  I  imagine.  She  will  rock  away  what  is  left  of 
her  life  in  that  high-back  chair  in  some  strange,  dismal 
room,  with  only  the  ticking  of  the  ancient  clock  and  the 
two  old  portraits  for  company.  And  the  laughter  which 
came  echoing  down  the  dismantled  hall  seemed  to  me  as 
horrid  as  the  merrymaking  at  a  Flemish  funeral. 

For  none  of  the  fine  hospitable  Barbadian  houses  can 
escape  a  similar  fate  unless  the  price  of  sugar  goes  up  and 
the  negroes  begin  to  bear  fewer  children.  And  neither  of 
these  things  seems  probable. 

But  the  climate  is  delicious.  Each  day,  as  it  passes,  is 
perfect.  The  trade  winds,  blowing  unobstructed  from  the 
coast  of  Africa,  bring  a  stimulating  vigor  to  the  air  which  is 
unknown  elsewhere  in  the  tropics.  It  would  be  hard  to 
imagine  a  more  healthy  place.  While  I  was  there  the 
island  was  quarantined  for  yellow  fever.  There  had  been 
six  cases  among  the  two  hundred  thousand  people.  None 
of  them  died,  and  the  one  effect  of  the  quarantine  was  a 
vigorous  polishing  of  sewer-pipes.  As  every  one  familiar 
with  the  tropics  knows,  a  port  under  quarantine  is  clean, 
even  if  at  other  times  it  is  unspeakably  dirty,  for  quaran- 
tine hurts  business  and  makes  the  sanitary  officials  wake 
up.  But  Barbados,  being  English,  is  always  clean.  So  the 
outbreak,  while  I  was  there,  had  no  visible  effect. 

THE   SEA    BOUTE  25 

Anyhow,  it  is  a  lotus  island.  Nobody  worries.  It  is  so 
delicious  to  sit  on  a  shaded  veranda  and  hear  the  clink  of 
ice  that  even  the  residents  forget  the  misery  of  the  negroes 
and  the  steady  fall  of  sugar.  So  there  is  no  excuse  for  a 
mere  visitor  not  to  find  the  place  charming. 



ALTHOUGH  the  outbreak  of  yellow  fever  in  Barbados  was 
not  serious,  the  quarantine  wrecked  my  plans.  I  had  ex- 
pected to  leave  the  island  on  the  Royal  Mail  boat  for 
Colon.  But  as  long  as  the  quarantine  lasted  no  ship  which 
touched  at  Bridgetown  would  be  allowed  to  enter  any  other 
Caribbean  port. 

If  I  had  been  a  Mohammedan  or  something  Oriental  I 
suppose  I  would  have  said  "Kismet — Allah-il- Allah, "  and 
enjoyed  myself.  It  is  a  delectable  island.  But  being  a 
child  of  the  Western  Hurry  Land,  and  overdue  on  the 
Isthmus,  I  fretted  exceedingly.  The  officials  of  the  Health 
Department  had  no  idea  when  the  embargo  would  be  lifted. 
It  might  last  a  week — or  a  couple  of  months.  I  once  tried 
to  call  on  a  Russian  editor  in  St.  Petersburg.  His  wife  told 
me  that  he  was  in  jail. 

"When  will  he  get  out?"  I  asked. 

"Even  God  doesn't  know,"  she  said. 

I  was  in  a  similar  condition  of  uncertainty.  Even  the 
American  Consul  did  not  know  when  I  could  get  out. 

But  the  quarantine  had  not  been  in  force  two  days,  when 
I  found  a  way  out.  On  the  veranda  of  the  hotel  I  over- 
heard two  men  in  earnest  conversation.  One  was  excitedly 
insisting  that  it  was  an  absolute  necessity  for  him  to  be  in 
Martinique  within  a  few  days.  The  older  man,  a  fine  look- 
ing G.  A.  R.  type  of  American,  said: 

"I'm  sorry,  I  can't  help  you  get  to  Martinique,  but  I 
could  fix  it,  if  you  wanted  to  go  to  Colon." 



I  told  him  my  troubles  without  further  introduction. 

He  turned  out  to  be  a  man  named  Earner  employed  by 
the  Isthmian  Canal  Commission  to  recruit  laborers.  It 
had  been  an  interesting  job — experimenting  in  racial  types. 
From  first  to  last  the  Commission  had  tried  about  eighty 
nationalities,  Hindoo  coolies,  Spaniards,  negroes  from  the 
States,  from  Africa,  from  Jamaica,  from  the  French  Islands, 
to  settle  down  to  those  from  Barbados.  They  have  proved 
the  most  efficient.  This  recruiting  officer  was  about  to  send 
over  a  consignment  of  seven  hundred  on  an  especially  char- 
tered steamer.  They  would  avoid  the  quarantine  restric- 
tions by  cruising  about  the  six  days  necessary  for  yellow 
fever  to  mature.  Then,  if  their  bill  of  health  was  clear 
they  could  dock.  My  new  acquaintance  was  not  exactly 
enthusiastic.  It  would  be  easy  to  arrange  for  my  passage 
on  this  boat,  he  said,  but  he  did  not  think  that  one  white 
passenger  among  this  cargo  of  blacks  would  have  a  very 
pleasing  time.  But  of  course  I  jumped  at  the  chance;  it 
was  this — or  the  risk  of  being  held  up  for  weeks.  I  was 
considerably  cheered  when  I  looked  over  the  boat.  I  was 
to  have  the  first  cabin  all  to  myself  and  the  freedom  of  the 
little  chart-house  deck  under  the  bridge.  With  a  pipe  and 
a  bag  full  of  ancient  books  about  the  brave  old  days  on  the 
Spanish  Main,  I  could  even  expect  to  enjoy  the  trip. 

After  leaving  the  boat  I  met  Earner  at  his  office  and  we 
went  to  the  recruiting  station.  On  our  way  we  walked 
through  the  little  park  which  is  grandiloquently  called 
Trafalgar  Square.  There  must  have  been  two  or  three 
thousand  negroes  crowded  along  one  side  of  it — -applicants 
for  work  on  the  Canal  Zone  and  their  friends.  The  com- 
mission pays  negro  laborers  ten  cents  an  hour,  and  ten 
hours  a  day.  Their  quarters  are  free,  and  meals  cost  thirty 
cents  a  day.  It  is  a  bonanza  for  them.  Barbados  is  vastly 
over-populated,  work  is  scant,  and  wages  unbelievably  low. 


Last  year  the  Barbadian  negroes  on  the  Isthmus  sent  home 
money-orders  to  their  relatives  for  over  $300,000,  so  there 
is  no  end  of  applicants. 

Several  policemen  kept  the  crowd  in  order  and  sent  them 
up  into  the  recruiting  station  in  batches  of  one  hundred  at 
a  time.  The  examination  took  place  in  a  large,  bare  loft. 
When  Karner  and  I  arrived  we  found  two  or  three  of  his 
assistants  hard  at  work.  As  the  men  came  up,  they  were 
formed  in  line  around  the  wall.  First,  all  those  who  looked 
too  old,  or  too  young,  or  too  weakly,  were  picked  out  and 
sent  away.  Then  they  were  told  that  no  man  who  had 
previously  worked  on  the  canal  would  be  taken  again.  I 
do  not  know  why  this  rule  has  been  made,  but  they  en- 
forced it  with  considerable  care.  One  or  two  men  admitted 
having  been  there  before  and  went  away.  Then  the  doctor 
told  them  all  to  roll  up  their  left  sleeves,  and  began  a  mys- 
terious examination  of  their  forearms.  Presently  he  grabbed 
a  man  and  jerked  him  out  of  the  line,  cursing  him  furiously. 

"You  thought  you  could  fool  me,  did  you?  It  won't  do 
you  any  good  to  lie,  you've  been  there  before.  Get  out!" 

I  asked  him  how  he  told,  and  he  showed  me  three  little 
scars  like  this,  .'.,  just  below  the  man's  elbow. 

"That's  my  vaccination  mark,"  he  said.  "Every  negro 
who  has  passed  the  examination  before  has  been  vaccinated 
like  that,  and  I  can  always  spot  them." 

He  caught  two  or  three  other  men  in  the  same  way  and 
sent  them  out  on  a  run.  They  protested  vehemently,  one 
arguing  that  a  dog  had  bitten  him  there.  But  the  telltale 
white  marks  stood  out  clearly  against  their  black  skins; 
there  was  no  gainsaying  them. 

Then  he  went  over  the  whole  line  again  for  tracoma, 
rolling  back  their  eyelids  and  looking  for  inflammation. 
Seven  or  eight  fell  at  this  test.  Then  he  made  them  strip 
and  went  over  them  round  after  round  for  tuberculosis, 


heart  trouble,  and  rupture.  A  few  fell  out  at  each  test. 
I  don't  think  more  than  twenty  were  left  at  the  end  out  of 
the  hundred,  and  they  certainly  were  a  fine  and  fit  lot  of 

All  during  the  examination  I  had  never  seen  a  more 
serious-looking  crowd  of  negroes,  but  when  at  last  the  doc- 
tor told  them  that  they  had  passed,  the  change  was  imme- 
diate. All  their  teeth  showed  at  once  and  they  started  to 
shout  and  caper  about  wildly.  A  flood  of  light  came  in 
through  the  window  at  the  end,  and  many  streaks  shot  down 
through  the  broken  shingles  on  their  naked  bodies.  It  was 
a  weird  sight — something  like  a  war  dance — as  they  expressed 
their  relief  in  guffaws  of  laughter  and  strange  antics.  It 
meant  semi-starvation  for  themselves  and  their  families  if 
they  were  rejected,  and  untold  wealth — a  dollar  a  day — if 
they  passed.  They  were  all  vaccinated  with  the  little  tri- 
angular spots,  their  contracts  signed,  and  they  went  pranc- 
ing down-stairs  to  spread  the  good  news  among  their  friends 
in  the  square. 

Sailing  day  was  a  busy  one.  They  began  putting  the 
cargo  of  laborers  aboard  at  sun-up.  When  I  went  down 
about  nine  to  the  dock,  it  seemed  that  the  whole  population 
of  darkest  Africa  was  there.  I  never  saw  so  many  negro 
women  in  my  life.  All  of  them  in  their  gayest  Sunday 
clothes,  and  all  wailing  at  the  top  of  their  voices.  Every 
one  of  the  departing  negroes  had  a  mother  and  two  or  three 
sisters  and  at  least  one  wife — all  weeping  lustily.  There  was 
one  strapping  negro  lass  with  a  brilliant  yellow  bandanna  on 
her  head  who  was  something  like  the  cheer-leader  at  a  col- 
lege football  game;  she  led  the  wailing. 

A  number  would  be  called,  the  negro  whose  contract 
corresponded  would  step  out  of  the  crowd.  A  new  wail 
would  go  up.  Again  there  was  a  medical  examination — 
especially  a  search  for  the  recent  vaccination  marks.  For 


often  a  husky,  healthy  negro  will  pass  the  first  examina- 
tion and  sell  his  contract.  Then  by  boat  loads  the  men  were 
rowed  aboard. 

Later  in  the  day  I  encountered  the  yellow-bandannaed 
negress,  who  had  been  leading  the  noise  at  the  dock,  sitting 
contentedly  in  Trafalgar  Square  surrounded  by  three  very 
jovial  young  bucks.  The  negroes  certainly  have  a  wonder- 
ful ability  for  changing  their  moods.  My  heart  had  been 
quite  wrung  by  the  noise  she  made  when  her  lover  had  left 
in  the  morning. 

About  four  o'clock  I  rowed  out  and  went  aboard.  Such 
a  mess  you  never  saw — what  the  Germans  would  call  "ein 
Schweinerei."  There  were  more  than  seven  hundred  negroes 
aboard,  each  with  his  bag  and  baggage.  It  was  not  a  large 
boat,  and  every  square  inch  of  deck  space  was  utilized. 
Some  had  trunks,  but  most  only  bags  like  that  which  Dick 
Whittington  carried  into  London.  There  was  a  fair  sprink- 
ling of  guitars  and  accordeons.  But  the  things  which  threw 
the  most  complication  into  the  turmoil  were  the  steamer 
chairs.  Some  people  ashore  had  driven  a  thriving  trade  in 
deck  chairs — flimsy  affairs,  a  yard-wide  length  of  canvas 
hung  on  uncertain  supports  of  a  soft,  brittle  wood.  The 
chairs  took  up  an  immense  amount  of  room,  and  the  ma- 
jority of  "have  nots"  were  jealous  of  the  few  who  had  them. 
It  was  almost  impossible  to  walk  along  the  deck  without 
getting  mixed  up  in  a  steamer  chair. 

There  were  more  formalities  for  the  laborers  to  go  through. 
The  business  reminded  me  of  the  way  postal  clerks  handle 
registered  mail.  Every  negro  had  a  number  corresponding 
to  his  contract,  and  the  utmost  precaution  was  taken  to  see 
that  none  had  been  lost  and  that  no  one  who  had  not  passed 
the  medical  examination  had  smuggled  himself  on  board. 

We  pulled  up  anchor  about  six.  All  the  ship's  officers 
head  moved  into  the  saloon;  it  was  the  only  clean  place 

A  CARGO  OF  BLACK  IVORY          31 

aboard — a  sort  of  white  oasis  in  the  black  Sahara.  For 
fresh  air  the  only  available  space  was  the  chart-house  deck. 
There  was  so  much  to  do  in  getting  things  shipshape  that 
none  of  the  officers  appeared  at  dinner.  So  I  ate  in  solitary 
grandeur.  The  cabin  was  intolerably  stuffy,  for  at  each  of 
the  twenty-four  portholes  the  round  face  of  a  grinning  negro 
cut  off  what  little  breeze  there  was.  There  was  great  com- 
petition among  the  negroes  for  the  portholes  and  the  chance 
to  see  me  eat.  As  nearly  as  I  could  judge  the  entire  seven 
hundred  had  their  innings.  I  faced  out  the  first  three 
courses  with  a  certain  amount  of  nonchalance,  but  with  the 
roast  the  twenty-four  pairs  of  shining  eyes — constantly 
changing — got  on  my  nerves.  I  did  scant  justice  to  the 
salad  and  dessert,  absolutely  neglected  the  coffee,  and, 
grabbing  my  writing-pad,  sought  refuge  up  on  deck.  The 
steward,  I  suppose,  thought  I  was  seasick. 

The  negroes  very  rapidly  accommodated  themselves  to 
their  new  surroundings.  The  strangeness  of  it  in  some  mys- 
terious way  stirred  up  their  religious  instincts;  they  took  to 
singing.  A  very  sharp  line  of  cleavage  sprang  up.  The 
port  side  of  the  ship  was  Church  of  England,  the  starboard, 
Nonconformist.  The  sectarians  seemed  to  be  in  the  ma- 
jority, but  were  broken  up  into  the  Free  Baptists,  Metho- 
dists, etc.  The  Sons  of  God  would  go  forth  to  war  on  the 
port  side,  while  something  which  sounded  like  a  cross  be- 
tween "Swing  Low,  Sweet  Chariot,"  and  Salvation  Army 
rag-time  was  in  full  blast  to  starboard. 

There  was  only  one  song,  a  secular  one,  on  which  they 
united.  The  tune  ran  something  like  "  Tammany,"  and  as 
near  as  I  could  catch  the  words  the  chorus  ran: 

"  Fever  and  ague  all  day  long 

At  Panama,  at  Panama, 
Wish  you  were  dead  before  very  long 
At  Panama,  at  Panama." 


Not  exactly  a  cheerful  song,  but  they  sang  it  with  great 

The  next  day  I  had  the  opportunity  to  get  acquainted 
with  the  ship's  officers.  The  captain,  a  Liverpool  man,  was 
short  and  built  on  the  lines  of  an  English  bull.  His  child- 
hood had  been  spent  in  France  and  he  was  absolutely  bi- 
lingual. He  had  read  much  more  than  his  hearty  British 
tar's  look  suggested.  I  sat  at  his  right.  Opposite  me  was 
the  purser,  a  light  weight — a  peach  and  cream  complexion 
and  very  dudish.  He  combed  his  hair  carefully  and  groomed 
his  finger-nails — "a  gay  dog  with  the  ladies,  doncherno." 
At  my  right  was  the  first  officer,  a  fine  type  of  straight 
limbed,  straightforward  Englishman.  Under  thirty  now, 
he  will  be  a  philosopher  at  forty.  He  had  not  read  as  many 
books  as  the  captain,  but  he  had  thought  a  lot  more  about 
each  one.  He  was  the  best  of  the  crowd.  Opposite  him 
was  the  doctor,  an  old  salt,  born  in  Barbados.  He  had  an 
immense  waistline,  but  his  legs  tapered  down  at  a  sharp 
angle  to  ridiculously  small  feet.  His  face  was  broad,  his 
beard  cut  at  the  same  angle  as  his  legs,  his  hair  flared  out 
from  his  head  in  an  amazing  way,  so  that  he  looked  just 
like  a  turnip.  Next  to  the  first  officer  sat  the  chief  engi- 
neer. He  was  also  an  oldish  man  from  Barbados.  He  and 
the  doctor  hated  each  other  cordially  and  took  opposite 
sides  on  every  question  except  the  glory  of  Barbados.  Any 
slur  cast  at  their  native  isle  brought  them  shoulder  to 
shoulder  in  an  instant.  The  second  officer  was  a  youngster 
with  a  squint  eye.  He  never  took  any  part  in  the  conversa- 
tion except  to  startle  everyone,  now  and  then,  with  an 
explosive  request  to  pass  him  the  pepper-sauce. 

During  coffee,  while  various  yarns  were  being  swapped, 
the  doctor  woke  up  suddenly  out  of  his  coma — the  state, 
according  to  English  novels,  into  which  all  elderly,  fat 
Britishers  sink  after  a  full  dinner.  He  looked  around  vac- 


antly  for  a  moment,  and  then,  without  waiting  for  any 
break  in  the  conversation,  began  ponderously: 

"One  time  on  a  P.  and  0.  boat — down  in  the  Red  Sea — 
so  hot — we  had  to  stop — to  cool  the  engines  .  .  ." 

But  he  got  no  further;  the  chief  groaned  and  threw  a 
biscuit  at  him.  The  purser  jumped  up  and  tied  a  napkin 
over  his  face.  Everyone  howled  derisively.  The  captain 
leading,  they  recited  in  unison: 

"One  time  on  a  P.  and  0.  boat — down  in  the  Red  Sea — 
so  hot — we  had  to  stop — to  cool  the  engines " 

By  this  time  the  doctor  had  pulled  the  napkin  from  his 
mouth,  and,  calling  them  all  "bloody  rotters,"  he  relapsed 
into  sullen  silence. 

"What's  the  story?"  I  asked. 

"Oh,  you'll  hear  it — often  enough  before  you  reach 
Colon,"  the  captain  said.  "In  self-defence  we  can't  allow 
it  at  dinner." 

"When  he  starts  it,"  the  purser  put  in,  "  'one  time  on  a 
P.  and  O.  boat,'  you'd  better  yell  for  assistance — it's  awful!" 

Then  came  another  interruption.  Suddenly  all  these  di- 
verse Englishmen,  who  did  not  appear  to  be  very  friendly, 
were  brought  together  with  a  snap.  There  was  a  sharp 
commotion  on  the  deck  above  us,  the  growl  of  many  angry 
voices,  some  high-pitched  curses,  and  the  rush  of  many 
feet.  Then  in  the  flash  of  an  eye  these  Englishmen  showed 
me  why  their  race  owns  half  the  earth. 

"Come  on,  boys,"  the  captain  said,  as  he  jumped  up. 

A  queer  idea  shot  into  my  mind  that  the  order  which 
sent  the  Light  Brigade  charging  down  the  hill  of  Balaklava 
must  have  sounded  like  that.  But  there  was  no  time  to 
develop  the  idea,  for  we  were  all  running  up  the  compan- 
ionway  at  top  speed. 

The  soft  southern  moonlight  was  shining  down  on  some- 
thing very  much  like  an  inferno — a  tangle  of  long  sinewy 


black  arms  ending  in  clenched  fists,  distorted  black  faces, 
the  whites  of  eyes,  and  gleaming  teeth — and  the  low-pitched 
angry  growl  of  a  fighting  mob. 

The  captain's  neck  seemed  to  disappear.  His  head  sank 
right  down  on  his  square  shoulders.  With  a  yell  he  led  the 
charge,  and  all  of  us — in  white  duck — plunged  into  the  black 
turmoil.  Seven  against  seven  hundred.  Englishmen  cer- 
tainly know  how  to  use  their  fists.  Every  time  they  struck 
somebody  went  down.  We  ploughed  our  way  along  the 
deck  to  the  storm  centre.  The  captain  gripped  a  man  and 
shook  him  like  a  rag.  We  all  followed  his  example,  up  to 
the  limit  of  our  strength.  Personally,  I  felt  like  the  tail  of 
the  dog,  for  the  man  whom  the  Fates  thrust  into  my  clutches 
was  three  times  my  strength. 

One  of  the  laborers,  waving  a  guitar  in  his  hand  like  a 
banner,  jumped  on  a  box  and  yelled  to  the  crowd  to  rush  us. 

"Shut  up,"  the  captain  snapped,  "or  I'll  put  a  bullet 
into  you!" 

It  seemed  as  though  every  one  at  once  saw  the  glint  of 
his  revolver.  A  sort  of  unearthly  moan  went  up  from  the 
negroes.  They  were  utterly  cowed.  Most  of  them  fell  on 
their  faces  and  tried  to  crawl  away. 

"Here,  you  constables,"  the  captain  called,  putting  up 
his  revolver,  "who  started  this  muss?" 

Ten  of  the  huskiest  negroes,  it  seemed,  had  been  made 
special  constables.  They  had  been  discreetly  absent  during 
the  disturbance,  but  now  turned  up  trying  hard  to  look 
heroic.  They  singled  out  two  of  the  seven  men  we  held — 
I  am  sure  it  was  an  absolutely  haphazard  selection.  With- 
out further  ado,  with  no  pretence  of  a  trial,  these  two  men 
were  put  in  irons  and  thrown  into  the  brig. 

Then  we  went  back  to  finish  our  coffee  and  cigars.  I 
asked  the  captain  if  he  thought  we  had  caught  the  real 

A  CARGO  OF  BLACK  IVOET          35 

" Probably  not,"  he  said,  "but  what  does  it  matter?  We 
gave  them  a  good  scare.  It's  pretty  hot  down  in  the  brig. 
We'll  keep  these  two  there  a  couple  of  hours  and  when  they 
come  out  they'll  be  sure  to  exaggerate  the  horrors  of  the 
place.  It  will  put  the  fear  of  God  into  all  of  them.  Be- 
sides, it  will  give  a  good  deal  of  prestige  to  the  constables. 
If  we  had  questioned  their  word,  their  authority  wouldn't 
have  amounted  to  anything.  You  can't  temporize  with 
natives,  you've  got  to  act  quick— even  if  you  aren't  right. 
It  isn't  exactly  justice,  but  it  works." 

It  is  this  quick,  fearless  action  and  cynical  disregard  of  ab- 
stract justice  which  enables  England  to  hold  the  lid  down  on 
her  colonies.  I  could  not  help  questioning  the  morality  of 
such  actions,  but  as  the  captain  said,  "it  works."  I  guess  it 
is  the  inevitable  ethics  of  empire.  It  had  saved  what  was  a 
very  critical  situation.  If  they  had  made  that  rush,  they 
would  have  swept  us  overboard  in  a  minute.  Sooner  or 
later,  many  of  them  would  have  been  hanged  for  it.  As 
it  was,  we  had  cracked  a  score  of  their  heads,  imprisoned 
two  who  were  probably  innocent.  No  serious  harm — be- 
yond injured  feelings — had  come  to  any  of  them  and  order 
was  restored. 

The  captain  himself  did  not  feel  entirely  at  ease,  but 
I  soon  found  that  his  scruples  were  the  opposite  from 

"Perhaps  I  ought  to  have  shot  that  beggar,"  he  said. 
"It  don't  do  to  bluff,  with  a  crowd  like  that.  I  was  in  a 
muss  once  on  the  China  sea — a  couple  of  hundred  coolies 
as  deck  passengers.  I  don't  remember  what  started  the 
rumpus.  The  captain  tried  to  bluff  them" — he  paused  to 
engender  suspense — "  It  didn't  work.  Before  we  got  through 
there  were  three  of  us  dead  and  about  twenty  chinks.  I 
guess  some  of  the  rest  are  still  in  the  penal  colony.  A  quick 
shot  might  have  saved  it  all.  Keep  your  guns  in  your  pock- 


ets  till  you  have  to  shoot — and  then  don't  hesitate.  But  I 
guess  this  lesson  will  keep  them  quiet.'7 

And  the  incident  was  closed. 

I  began  to  feel  an  ache  in  my  leg,  and,  looking  down,  I 
saw  blood  on  my  white  trousers.  During  the  excitement  I 
had  barked  my  shin  on  one  of  those  infernal  deck  chairs. 
The  doctor  took  me  to  his  cabin  to  disinfect  and  bandage 
the  wound. 

"One  time  on  a  P.  and  0.  boat,"  he  began,  "down  in  the 
Red  Sea  .  .  ." 

But  the  purser  came  along  and  threatened  to  throw  the 
doctor  to  the  sharks  if  he  inflicted  the  story  on  me.  I  was 
getting  quite  curious  about  what  did  happen  on  that  P. 
and  O.  But  the  doctor  was  too  busy  reviling  the  purser  to 
finish  the  yarn. 

That  night  we  ran  into  heavy  weather,  and  I  have  never 
seen  anything  messier  than  the  deck  in  the  morning.  Seven 
hundred  seasick  negroes  are  not  a  pretty  sight,  but  there 
was  a  certain  selfish  joy  in  seeing  that  this  storm  had  made 
an  end  of  those  steamer  chairs.  They  were  all  smashed  to 
splinters  the  moment  we  began  to  roll. 

"I  hope,"  the  captain  said  at  breakfast,  "that  this  keeps 
up.  Seasickness  will  take  the  mischief  out  of  them." 

But  his  wish  was  not  granted.  By  noon  we  had  run  into 
a  sea  like  a  sheet  of  corrugated  iron,  just  little  ripples,  and 
a  metallic  look.  We  were  running  about  eleven  degrees 
north,  and  it  certainly  was  hot.  There  was  not  a  breath 
of  wind.  The  negroes  recovered  with  their  habitual  quick- 
ness, and  were  in  an  unusually  amiable  mood.  They 
turned  out  willingly  to  help  the  crew  wash  down  the  decks. 
I  have  never  seen  water  evaporate  so  quickly.  One  minute 
the  decks  were  glistening  with  water,  the  next  they  were 
already  dry,  within  five  minutes  they  were  too  hot  to  walk 
on  barefooted. 


Of  course  these  negroes  were  not  very  comfortable.  But 
they  were  free!  There  are  many  men  still  living  who  can 
remember  when  slave-ships  sailed  these  very  waters.  It  is 
hard  to  imagine  what  life  on  a  slave-ship  must  have  been. 
The  effort  to  reconstruct  the  horrors  of  those  days — not  so 
very  long  past — makes  the  inconveniences  which  this  cargo 
of  black  ivory  suffer  seem  small  indeed.  Above  all,  there 
was  no  one  among  them  who  was  not  here  of  his  own  free 
will.  There  was  not  one  of  them  whose  heart  was  not  full 
of  hope — this  voyage  to  them  all  meant  opportunity.  Think 
what  it  must  have  meant  to  their  forefathers!  Nothing 
which  happened  to  them  after  they  were  landed  and  sold 
could  have  approached  the  agony  of  the  long  voyage  in 
irons,  thrown  pell-mell  into  the  hold  of  a  sailing  ship.  Not 
knowing  their  captors'  language,  they  could  not  know  the 
fate  in  store  for  them.  The  world  does  move. 

When,  in  the  far  future,  the  history  of  our  times  is  writ- 
ten, I  think  that  our  father's  generation  will  be  especially 
remembered  because  it  abolished  the  negro  slave  trade. 
They  invented  steam-engines  and  all  manner  of  machines; 
they  cut  down  a  great  many  trees  and  opened  up  a  conti- 
nent and  did  other  notable  things.  But  their  crowning 
glory  was  that  they  made  an  end  of  chattel-slavery. 

Until  these  imported  negro  laborers  are  handed  over  to 
the  United  States  authorities  at  Colon  they  are  under  the 
paternal  care  of  Great  Britain.  The  conditions  under  which 
they  have  been  recruited,  the  terms  of  their  contracts,  have 
been  carefully  supervised  by  English  officials.  Above  all, 
their  health  is  guarded.  Their  daily  menus — and  they  are 
quite  sumptuous — have  been  ordered  by  His  Majesty's 
government  in  London. 

The  sunset  that  second  evening  was  glorious.  Right  over 
our  bow  was  a  pyramid  of  soft  white  clouds;  the  sun  sink- 
ing behind  them  brought  to  light  a  glory  of  rich  harmonic 


colors.  The  whole  mass  shone  and  glistened  like  the  great 
thirteenth-century  window  in  the  chancel  of  Chartrej. 
There  was  gold,  bright  and  flaming  on  the  edges,  and  the 
heart  of  the  cloud  was  hot  orange.  The  sky  above,  clear 
across  to  the  east,  was  red,  a  thousand,  thousand  shades 
of  red.  And  the  glory  of  the  sky  fell  and  was  reflected  in 
the  metallic  blackness  of  the  sea.  There  was  an  Oriental 
gorgeousness  about  it.  If  one  were  to  wave  a  brilliantly 
colored  gold-embroidered  Chinese  shawl  above  an  age-old 
lacquer  tray,  it  would  give  some  faint  idea  of  the  gorgeous- 
ness  of  this  tropical  sunset. 

Several  of  the  ship's  officers  were  on  the  deck  watching  it, 
and  when  at  last  the  color  faded  the  first  officer  spoke  up. 

"It's  strange,"  he  said,  "in  these  Western  waters  you  get 
the  best  sunsets;  the  dawn  is  flat  and  not  at  all  impressive. 
It  is  just  the  opposite  in  the  East.  The  sunrises  count  out 

It  was  a  new  idea  to  me,  and  I  asked  the  others  if  they 
had  found  it  so.  They  all  backed  his  statement,  recalling 
gorgeous  sunrises  in  the  Orient,  but  no  one  could  offer  any 
plausible  explanation  of  the  fact,  they  all  affirmed. 

In  a  moment's  pause  the  doctor  started  up,  "I  remember 
one  time  on  the  Red  Sea — on  the  P.  &  0.  boat — it  was  so 
hot — "  That  was  as  far  as  he  got.  The  younger  men 
pulled  his  beard,  ruffled  his  stray  hairs,  and  poked  his  ribs 
till  he  went  away  breathing  out  death  and  destruction  on 
all  of  them. 

Day  after  day  we  slipped  along  through  that  burnished 
sea.  As  a  rule  the  negroes  were  cheerful  and  all  went  well 
until  the  last  day.  The  night  had  been  unspeakably  close. 
It  could  not  have  been  any  hotter  that  time  on  the  Red 
Sea  the  doctor  tries  to  tell  about  when  they  had  to  stop 
the  engines. 

I  crawled  out  before  five  in  the  morning,  hoping  to  get 


some  air  on  deck.  My  stateroom  was  suffocating.  Not 
one  of  the  seven  hundred  negroes  was  asleep;  they  were 
fidgeting  about  from  one  unbearably  hot  position  to  an- 
other. A  couple  of  the  officers  were  up  on  the  bridge 
talking  in  monosyllables,  and  I  gathered  that  they  were 
planning  against  the  possibilities  which  the  evident  unrest 
among  the  negroes  foretold.  You  read  sometimes  of  sailors 
feeling  in  the  air  the  approach  of  a  tornado.  It  was  just 
the  same  here;  no  one  could  help  seeing  that  trouble  was 
brewing.  The  men  were  like  tinder.  For  five  days  they 
had  been  crowded  on  board  with  no  chance  for  exercise, 
and  now,  the  sun  barely  up,  the  deck  was  almost  hot  enough 
to  fry  eggs. 

The  fire-hose  was  run  out  and  the  decks  flooded  to  cool 
them,  and  the  hose  was  left  in  place  to  cool  the  men  if  need 

There  were  a  few  scuffles  during  the  morning,  and  four 
men,  one  after  another,  were  ironed  and  chucked  into  the 
brig.  It  was  a  hard  time  for  the  crowd  of  negroes,  but  it 
was  certainly  little — if  any — easier  for  the  few  white  men. 

Trouble  came  with  a  rush  over  lunch.  These  negroes 
probably  had  never  had  such  excellent  meals  before.  But 
the  fates  arranged  that  just  this  last  day,  when  every  one 
was  wearied  and  cross,  things  should  go  wrong  in  the 
kitchen.  Perhaps  the  heat  had  affected  the  ccok — or  per- 
haps some  direct  rays  of  the  sun  had  fallen  on  the  rice — 
anyhow,  it  was  scorched  beyond  eating. 

I  suppose  the  first  fifty  negroes  who  were  served  chucked 
their  rice  overboard  when  they  tasted  it;  no  one  is  hungry 
in  such  weather.  But  at  last  it  came  to  a  trouble-maker. 
He  swore  loudly  that  it  was  not  fit  for  a  pig,  that  he  would 
not  stand  such  an  outrage,  that  the  steward  was  making  a 
fortune  out  of  them,  etc.  Part  of  what  he  said  was  un- 
heeded, but  a  word  here  and  there  was  taken  up  and  passed 


along,  growing,  of  course,  from  mouth  to  mouth.  Inside  of 
five  minutes  every  negro  on  board  felt  that  life  without  a 
good  portion  of  unscorched  rice  was  not  worth  living.  A 
growl  rolled  back  and  forth  from  bow  to  stern,  growing 
deeper  every  trip.  It  was  what  we  had  been  dreading  all 

Half  our  little  company  pushed  through  the  angry  crowd 
to  the  door  of  the  kitchen,  for  there  was  some  talk  of  rush- 
ing that.  The  first  officer  in  the  bow,  the  second  officer  in 
the  stern,  each  with  a  negro  quartermaster  and  two  or  three 
able-bodied  seamen,  manned  the  fire-hose.  The  rest  of  us 
formed  a  sort  of  reserve  on  the  bridge.  This  display  of 
force  cooled  their  ardor  for  a  minute.  No  one  of  them 
wanted  to  be  a  leader;  they  just  groaned  and  growled  and 
howled.  Almost  all  of  them  had  crowded  up  forward  in 
the  bow.  The  captain  stepped  out  on  the  bridge  and  asked 
what  was  wrong.  A  hundred  began  yelling  out  their 
grievances  at  once.  The  captain — he  has  a  voice  like  a 
fog-horn — ordered  them  to  be  still. 

"I  can't  understand  when  you  all  speak  at  once.  Send 
me  a  delegation,  three  men." 

Then  the  negroes  began  to  palaver.  As  far  as  I  could 
see  six  men  volunteered.  They  were  all  rejected.  It  was 
ten  minutes  before  they  chose  their  committee,  and  one  of 
them  lost  his  nerve  just  at  the  foot  of  the  ladder  to  the 
bridge.  They  had  to  go  back  and  get  another  man.  Some- 
how it  had  a  ludicrous,  comic-opera  effect. 

But  the  captain  listened  gravely  to  the  committee  and 
tasted  the  rice.  He  threw  it  overboard  with  a  grunt  of 
disgust — it  must  have  been  pretty  bad.  He  talked  for  a 
moment  with  the  pale-faced  steward  and  then  stepped  out 
where  all  the  angry  crowd  could  see  him.  I  think  with  a 
good  joke  he  might  have  saved  the  situation — but  the  joke 
failed  him. 


"I  am  sorry  about  the  rice,"  he  said;  "I  have  tried  my 
best  to  give  you  good  food,  and  this  is  our  last  day.  To- 
morrow we  will  be  in  harbor  and  have  fresh  food.  This 
afternoon  at  three  the  steward  will  give  you  iced  tea,  and 
I  will  see  that  you  have  an  especially  good  supper  to-night." 

"But  we  want  rice!"  some  one  yelled. 

However,  the  captain's  little  speech  had  appealed  to  the 
common  sense  of  most  of  the  crowd,  and  only  a  few  took 
up  this  cry.  But  things  suddenly  took  another  turn.  There 
were  on  board  some  deck  passengers  who  were  not  contract 
laborers — several  families  of  negroes.  And  one  girl — she  did 
not  look  above  eighteen — I  had  already  noted  as  a  source 
of  trouble.  During  the  captain's  speech  the  three  delegates 
had  climbed  down  to  the  deck  unobserved  and  were  lost  in 
the  crowd.  Suddenly,  just  when  things  were  seeming  to 
smooth  out,  this  girl  jumped  on  a  trunk  and  began  to 
scream : 

"Where's  our  committee?  They've  put  them  into  the 
black  hole!" 

She  yelled  a  lot  more,  but  no  one  could  hear  her  because 
of  the  cry  which  went  up  from  the  mob.  Her  words  were 
like  a  whip.  In  an  instant  the  crowd  would  be  moving. 
The  captain  put  his  hands  to  his  mouth  as  a  megaphone 
and  bellowed  to  the  chief  officer: 

"Stand  by  with  the  hose!" 

"Ay,  ay,  sir!"  the  response  came  back. 

"Now,  gentlemen,"  he  said  to  us,  "we  must  shut  up  that 

I  saw  his  hand  go  to  his  hip  pocket,  and  suddenly  I  re- 
membered the  story  he  had  told  about  the  coolies  in  the 
China  Sea,  and  it  did  not  seem  like  comic  opera  any  more. 

He  took  a  step  forward  to  jump  down  into  the  maddened 
crowd  on  deck.  Then  help  came  from  an  unexpected 
source.  The  captain's  shouted  order  and  the  reply  which 


rang  back  had  quieted  the  crowd  for  an  instant.  It  had 
not  pacified  them,  but  they  had  stopped  their  shouting  to 
gather  breath  for  fight.  And  just  in  this  lull  a  new  voice 
rose — or  rather  fell.  It  was  from  the  lookout  in  the  crow's 

"Land  ho!"  he  sang  out.     "Land  on  the  port  bow-ow!" 

It  saved  the  day.  Two  or  three  on  the  outskirts  of  the 
mob  ran  to  the  rail  for  a  look.  "Land!"  they  shouted. 
Of  course  they  could  not  see  it;  it  was  not  yet  visible  from 
the  bridge,  barely  in  sight  from  the  crow's  nest,  but  equally 
of  course  they  thought  they  could.  The  crowd  melted 
away  instantly;  every  one  wanted  to  see  land.  Each 
cloud  on  the  southern  horizon,  one  after  another,  was  picked 
out  as  South  America.  When  a  baby  bumps  his  nose  and 
you  stop  his  crying  by  barking  like  a  dog,  it  is  the  same 
thing.  The  excitement  of  "Land  ho!"  had  made  them  for- 
get the  scorched  rice. 

"Anglo-Saxon  luck,"  the  captain  said  to  me. 

By  three  o'clock,  when  the  iced  tea  came  out,  the  moun- 
tain tops  of  Colombia  were  in  plain  sight  and  everybody 
was  happy.  They  were  further  distracted  from  mischief 
about  five  o'clock  when  the  wheel  was  thrown  hard  over 
and  we  turned  south.  We  were  close  inland  now,  and  the 
ground  swell  was  choppy;  most  of  them  were  seasick  again. 
We  dropped  anchor  a  little  after  sunset  and  they  began  to 

There  were  more  formalities  with  the  health  officers  in 
the  morning.  Everybody  had  his  temperature  taken  and 
was  re-examined  for  trachoma.  Those  whose  vaccination 
had  not  "taken,"  went  through  that  ordeal  again.  And 
then  these  seven  hundred  negroes  scattered  over  the  Isth- 
mus to  help  us  dig  the  ditch. 

Although  they  are  not  interested  in  anything  but  their 
dollar  a  day,  I  warrant  that  their  children's  children  will 



boast  that  their  grandfathers  worked  on  this  job.  And  I 
wonder  what  their  children's  children  will  be  like.  These 
men  are  free,  their  grandfathers  were  slaves.  That  is  im- 
mense progress  for  a  race  to  make  in  two  generations!  If 
their  children  and  grandchildren  keep  up  the  pace  there  is 
great  hope  for  the  negroes. 

Just  as  I  was  going  down  the  gang-plank,  the  doctor 
nagged  me. 

"One  time  on  a  P.  and  O.  boat — down  in  the  Red 
Sea  .  .  ." 

But  I  was  too  eager  to  be  ashore  to  hear  him  out. 


THE   CANAL  ZONE   IN    1909 

IT  was  good  to  land  at  Colon  and  see  some  workaday 
Americans.  For  a  month  I  had  been  among  the  carefully 
dressed  Britishers  of  the  colonies.  It  was  a  joy  to  see  men 
in  flannel  shirts  and  khaki,  mud  up  to  their  knees,  grime  on 
their  hands,  sweat  on  their  brow — men  who  were  working 
like  galley  slaves  in  a  poisonous  climate,  digging  the  biggest 
ditch  on  earth,  and  proud  of  it. 

Colon  is  a  nondescript  sort  of  place;  there  are  docks  and 
railway  yards  and  Chinese  lotteries  and  Spanish  restaurants 
and  an  "Astor  House"  which  reminds  one  much  more  of 
Roaring  Camp  than  of  Broadway.  There  are  many  mining 
towns  near  the  Mexican  border  which  one  might  well  mis- 
take for  Colon. 

One  of  the  Panama  Railway  steamers  had  come  in  during 
the  morning,  bringing  mail  and  newspapers  from  home  and  a 
number  of  the  Canal  employees  back  from  their  leave  in 
"  the  States."  One  of  them  attracted  my  attention;  he  was 
standing  on  the  railway  platform  among  a  group  in  khaki 
who  had  come  down  from  their  work  to  welcome  him  back. 
They  were  asking  him  endless  questions  about  "God's 
country"  and  making  much  sport  of  his  " store  clothes," 
and  especially  of  some  Nile-green  socks.  He  pulled  up  his 
trousers  and  strutted  about  pretending  to  be  vastly  proud 
of  them,  but  it  was  easy  to  see  that  he  was  keen  to  be  back 
in  his  work  clothes.  Their  "joshing"  was  a  bit  rough,  but 
good-natured.  For  they  are  a  free-and-easy  lot.  these 


THE    CANAL    ZONE    IN    1909  45 

modern  frontiersmen  of  ours,  undismayed  by  the  odds 
against  them. 

The  Panama  Railway  is  our  first  experiment  in  Govern- 
ment ownership;  and,  as  it  is  always  enjoyable  to  see  some- 
thing accomplished  which  people  have  for  a  long  time 
thought  impossible,  it  was  a  pleasure  to  see  what  a  thor- 
oughly good  railway  it  is. 

An  old  college  friend  met  me  at  the  dock,  and,  after  we 
had  looked  over  the  railway,  took  me  out  to  his  quarters. 
The  boundary  of  the  Canal  Zone  runs  through  the  city  of 
Colon,  and  the  American  side  of  the  line  is  called  Cristo- 
bal. Many  of  the  houses  were  built  by  the  old  French 
company,  but  the  camp  has  grown,  since  the  American 
occupation.  All  those  who  work  for  the  Canal  Commis- 
sion are  given  quarters  free  of  charge ;  and  they  are  very 
good  quarters.  Some  of  the  bachelors  have  single  rooms, 
sometimes  two  have  a  double  room  together.  There  are 
broad,  shaded  porches  about  all  the  American  buildings, 
and  every  living-place  is  guarded  with  mosquito  gauze. 
The  quarters  are  allotted  on  a  regular  scale  of  so  many 
square  feet  of  floor  space  to  every  hundred  dollars  of  salary. 
The  employees  are  infinitely  more  comfortable  than  in  any 
other  construction  camp  I  have  ever  seen.  The  furniture 
is  ample:  table  and  Morris  chairs  and  comfortable  beds. 
Everything  is  wonderfully  clean.  There  are  abundant 
baths  for  every  one,  and  of  course  the  sanitary  arrangements 
are  perfect.  The  bachelor  quarters  would  compare  favor- 
ably with  the  ordinary  college  dormitory. 

We  did  not  have  time  to  inspect  any  of  the  married  men's 
quarters  before  our  train  left  for  Panama,  but  my  friend 
tells  me  that  they  are  even  more  pleasant  than  his.  Two 
minutes  out  from  Christobel  the  train  jumps  into  the  jun- 
gle. And  this  jungle  is  one  of  the  things  which  defeated 
de  Lesseps.  The  engineering  problems  which  face  us  are 


practically  the  same  as  those  which  the  French  tackled;  of 
course,  we  have  better  machinery  and  more  money.  But 
one  of  our  greatest  advantages  is  W.  C.  Gorgas,  chief  sani- 
tary officer  of  the  Canal  Zone.  He  is  the  army  doctor  who 
cleaned  up  Havana.  He  had  a  much  harder  job  on  the 
Isthmus.  Even  to  the  layman  who  knows  no  more  than  I 
of  anopheles  and  stegomyia,  the  excessively  heavy  vegetation 
of  the  jungle  looks  threateningly  sinister.  It  is  Colonel 
Gorgas  who  has  pulled  its  teeth.  My  friend  tells  me  that 
there  has  not  been  a  case  of  yellow  fever  on  the  Zone  for  three 
and  a  half  years.  And  to-day  there  are  only  a  quarter 
as  many  men  in  the  hospital  with  the  dreaded  Chagres 
fever  as  there  were  in  1906.  The  health  statistics  of  the 
Zone  compare  favorably  with  those  of  any  of  our  home 

There  was  a  motley  crowd  on  our  train.  In  the  second 
class  carriage  there  were  merry  West  Indian  negroes,  sullen 
Spanish  and  light-hearted  Italian  laborers.  I  noticed  espe- 
cially a  seat  full  of  Martinique  women — their  gaudy,  elabo- 
rate turbans  would  mark  them  anywhere.  Close  beside 
them  were  some  East  Indian  coolies — men  with  Caucasian 
features  and  ebony  skin.  They  wear  queer  little  em- 
broidered caps;  it  is  all  that  is  left  of  their  native  costume. 
The  faces  of  some  of  them  are  remarkably  fine  and  intel- 
lectual. There  was  also  a  fair  sprinkling  of  Chinese. 

Most  noticeable  in  my  carriage  was  a  group  of  Pana- 
manian women,  darker  skinned  than  the  women  of  Spain, 
but  still  keeping  many  characteristics  of  the  mother  land. 
My  friend  called  them  "spiggoty"  women,  and  then  told 
me  that  "spiggoty"  is  Zone  slang  for  anything  native,  be- 
cause in  the  early  days  the  Panamanians,  when  addressed, 
used  to  reply,  "No  spiggoty  Inglis." 

Most  of  the  first-class  passengers,  however,  were  Ameri- 
cans, Some  were  evidently  of  the  Administration — their 

TEE    CANAL   ZONE   IN   1909  47 

soft  hands  and  clean  clothes  marked  them.  And  I  imagine 
that  they  are  rather  looked  down  upon  by  the  "men  on  the 
line,"  the  civil  and  mechanical  engineers,  who  swagger 
about,  plainly  proud  of  the  marks  of  toil.  And  there  are 
women  too — clean-cut  American  girls,  just  such  as  you 
would  see  on  a  train  leading  into  a  co-education  college 

"Gatun!"  the  conductor  calls. 

Gatun  and  Culebra  are,  I  suppose,  the  two  Isthmian 
names  most  known  in  the  States.  My  friend  pointed  out 
to  me  the  toes  of  the  great  dam.  But  it  isn't  a  dam  they 
are  building;  it  is  a  mountain  range.  It  is  to  be  half 
a  mile  wide  and  a  mile  and  a  half  long,  high  enough  to 
hold  the  water  up  to  a  level  of  eighty-five  feet  above  the 
sea.  They  have  barely  commenced  work  on  this  great 
wall,  but  it  already  presents  a  suggestion  of  its  future  mas- 
siveness  which  makes  the  newspaper  sensations  about  its 
inadequacy  a  joke.  How  could  a  wall  fifteen  times  as  wide 
as  it  is  high  fall  over?  There  are  some  chronic  critics  who 
say  that  the  water  will  leak  through  it.  But  this  dam  is 
only  a  part  of  the  wall  of  hills  which  will  hold  in  the  great 
lake.  And  why  this  specially  prepared  hill  should  be  more 
porous  than  the  others,  which  nature  has  thrown  together 
haphazard,  is  more  than  I  can  see. 

From  Gatun  the  train  goes  through  territory  which  is  to 
be  the  lake.  For  twenty-three  miles  the  ships  will  cross 
this  artificial  lake  to  Culebra  Cut.  Never  before  has  man 
dreamed  of  taking  such  liberties  with  nature,  of  making 
such  sweeping  changes  in  the  geographical  formation  of  a 
country.  Here  are  we  Americans  dropping  down  into  the 
heart  of  a  jungle  of  unequaled  denseness,  building  a  young 
mountain,  balancing  a  lake  of  160  odd  square  miles  on  the 
top  of  the  continental  divide,  gouging  out  a  canon  10  miles 
long,  300  feet  wide,  and  in  some  places  over  250  feet  deep. 


Think  about  that  for  a  minute  and  then  be  proud  that 
you  are  an  American. 

All  the  technical  things  my  friend  told  me  about  millions 
of  yards  of  subaqueous  excavation,  and  so  forth,  meant 
nothing  to  me.  But  looking  out  of  the  car  window  mile 
after  mile  as  we  passed  through  what  is  soon  to  be  the  bed 
of  this  artificial  lake,  I  caught  some  faint  idea  of  the  magni- 
tude of  the  project. 

"Look!"  my  friend  cried  suddenly.  "See  that  machine 
— it  looks  like  a  steam  crane — it  is  a  track-shifter.  Invented 
by  one  of  our  engineers.  You  see,  on  the  dumps,  where 
we  throw  out  the  spoil  from  the  cuts,  we  have  to  keep  shifting 
the  tracks  to  keep  the  top  of  the  dump  level.  Well,  it  took 
an  awful  lot  of  time  to  do  it  by  hand.  So  we  developed 
that  machine.  It  just  takes  hold  of  a  section  of  track,  rails 
and  ties  and  all,  hoists  it  up  out  of  its  ballast,  and  swings  it 
over  to  where  we  want  it.  Does  in  an  hour  what  a  gang  of 
twenty  men  could  not  do  in  a  week.  They're  not  used  much 
anywhere  else  in  the  world.  You  see,  there  isn't  any  other 
place  where  they  have  to  shift  track  on  so  large  a  scale." 

They  seem  vastly  proud  of  this  track-shifter  down  here. 

"And  this  is  Gorgona,"  he  said,  a  minute  later.  "Those 
shops  over  there  are  the  largest  of  their  kind  in  the  world — 
repairing  machinery.  We  can  mend  anything  in  there  from 
a  locomotive  to  a  watch-spring." 

One  gets  tired  of  this  "largest  in  the  world"  talk.  But 
it  is  only  as  you  accustom  yourself  to  the  idea  that  each 
integral  part  of  the  work  is  of  unequaled  proportions  that 
you  begin  to  sense  the  grandeur  of  the  whole  undertaking. 
The  largest  dam,  the  highest  locks,  the  greatest  artificial 
lake,  the  deepest  cut,  the  biggest  machine  shops,  the  heaviest 
consumption  of  dynamite,  the  most  wonderful  sanitary 
system — all  these  and  others  which  I  forget  are  unique — the 
top  point  of  human  achievement.  After  an  hour  of  this 

THE    CANAL    ZONE    IN    1909  49 

talk  I  gained  a  new  respect  for  Uncle  Sam. — a  new  respect 
for  his  children  who  have  conceived  and  are  executing  this 
gigantic  thing. 

The  whistle  blew  in  the  shops  at  Gorgona  as  we  pulled 
into  the  station,  and  there  was  a  rush  for  places  in  the 
train.  Four  men  just  from  their  work  tumbled  into  the 
double  seat  before  me.  Fine  fellows  they  were,  despite  the 
yellow  malarial  tinge  of  their  skin  and  the  grimy  sweat 
which  ran  in  little  rivulets  down  their  sooty  faces.  The 
hands  with  which  they  brushed  off  the  beads  of  perspiration 
were  black  and  greasy  from  their  work.  They  wore  no 
coats,  and  their  shirts,  wringing  wet,  stuck  close  to  their 
backs,  and  the  play  of  their  muscles  as  they  relaxed  after 
the  day's  strain  showed  as  plainly  as  if  they  had  been  nude. 
I  tried  to  follow  their  conversation — which  was  very  earn- 
est— but  could  not,  as  it  was  all  about  some  new  four- 
cylinder  engine  with  a  mysterious  kind  of  alternate  action. 

A  few  miles  farther  down  the  line  we  came  to  Empire. 
The  scene  on  the  platform  recalled  a  suburban  station  on 
some  line  out  of  New  York,  for,  except  a  few  Chinamen 
and  Spaniards,  the  crowd  was  just  the  same  as  that  which 
comes  down  to  meet  the  commuters  on  an  evening  train 
after  the  work-day  is  over.  One  group  caught  my  atten- 
tion. A  young  mother  of  thirty,  in  the  crispest,  whitest 
lawn,  was  holding  a  baby.  Beside  her  stood  a  sister,  like 
a  Gibson  summer  girl.  The  younger  woman  held  by  the 
hand  a  little  lad  of  four  with  Jeanne  d'Arc  hair,  bare  legs, 
a  white  Russian  tunic,  and  a  black  belt.  Fresh  from  the 
bath-tub  they  looked,  all  four  of  them.  And  while  I  was 
admiring  the  picture  they  made  and  wondering  at  the 
strange  chance  which  had  brought  such  a  New  Jersey  group 
down  here  under  the  equator  the  mother's  face  lighted  up 
and  she  waved  her  hand.  Two  of  those  grimy  men  who  had 
sat  before  me  swung  off  the  steps  of  the  car  and  came 


towards  them.  One  was  the  father.  Holding  his  hands 
stiffly  behind  him  so  as  not  to  soil  anything,  he  bent  for- 
ward and  kissed  his  wife.  Then,  one  after  the  other,  the 
children  were  held  up  to  him  for  a  kiss.  The  other  man, 
somewhat  younger,  took  off  his  battered  hat  with  a  gallant 
sweep  to  the  sister.  He  greeted  her  as  formally  as  if  it  had 
been  Easter  Sunday  on  Fifth  Avenue.  Neither  of  them 
seemed  to  realize  that  he  looked  like  a  coal  miner.  They 
loitered  behind  as  they  went  up  the  hill  to  the  quarters. 
He  walked  as  close  to  her  white  skirt  as  he  dared,  and  had 
something  very  serious  to  say  to  her,  for  they  laughed  just 
as  Americans  do  when  they  are  talking  earnestly. 

It  is  between  Gorgona  and  Empire  that  you  get  your  first 
look  into  Culebra  Cut.  It  is  as  busy  a  place  as  an  anthill. 
It  seems  to  be  alive  with  machinery;  there  are,  of  course, 
men  in  the  cut  too,  but  they  are  insignificant,  lost  among 
the  mechanical  monsters  which  are  jerking  work-trains 
about  the  maze  of  tracks,  which  are  boring  holes  for  the 
blasting,  which  are  tearing  at  the  spine  of  the  continent — 
steam  shovels  which  fill  a  car  in  five  moves,  steam  shovels 
as  accurate  and  delicate  as  a  watch,  as  mighty —  Well,  I 
can  think  of  nothing  sufficiently  mighty  to  compare  with 
these  steel  beasts  which  eat  a  thousand  cubic  yards  a  day 
out  of  the  side  of  the  hills. 

But  it  is  not  till  you  get  beyond  the  cut  and,  looking 
back,  see  the  profile  of  the  ditch  against  the  sunset  that  you 
get  the  real  impression — the  memory  which  is  to  last.  The 
scars  on  the  side  of  the  cut  are  red,  like  the  rocks  of  our  great 
Western  deserts.  The  work  has  stopped,  and  the  great 
black  shovels  are  silhouetted  against  the  red  of  the  sky. 
Then  there  comes  a  moment,  as  your  train  winds  round  a 
curve,  when  the  lowering  sun  falls  directly  into  the  notch 
of  the  cut  and  it  is  all  illumined  in  an  utterly  unearthly 

TEE    CANAL   ZONE   IN   1909  51 

The  night  falls  rapidly  in  the  tropics,  and  when,  a  few 
minutes  later,  we  reached  Panama,  it  was  too  dark  to  see 
anything  of  the  quaint  old  city,  so  we  drove  at  once  to 
Ancon,  the  American  suburb,  and  put  up  at  the  Tivoli,  the 
Government  hotel.  It  was  a  lucky  chance  which  brought 
me  there  on  that  day,  as  I  saw  a  phase  of  life  which  I  might 
otherwise  have  missed.  A  couple  of  dozen  Congressmen 
had  come  down  on  an  unofficial  visit  to  the  Zone,  so  that 
when  they  got  back  to  Washington  and  anything  was  said 
about  the  Canal  they  could  jump  up  and  contradict  it,  and 
say,  "I  know,  because  I've  been  there."  It  is  safe  to  say 
that  the  men  on  the  Isthmus  are  more  afraid  of  Congress- 
men than  they  are  of  yellow  fever  mosquitoes.  The  Canal 
Commission  has  its  plans  all  worked  out;  if  Congress  will 
grant  them  the  money — and  leave  them  alone— -the  Canal 
will  be  built  on  schedule  time.  Yet  not  only  their  personal 
reputations,  but,  what  is  much  more  important,  the  success 
of  the  work,  is  utterly  at  the  mercy  of  Congress.  Several 
bills  are  presented  in  each  session  which,  if  passed,  would 
seriously  cripple  the  work.  And  these  bills  must  be  acted 
upon  by  men  who  know  little  or  nothing  of  engineering. 
When  the  men  down  here  have  nightmares,  it  is  not  of  hob- 
goblins they  dream,  but  of  Congressmen.  I  certainly  hope 
that  the  average  of  intelligence  in  the  House  is  higher  than 
among  the  Representatives  I  saw  at  the  Tivoli.  At  the 
table  next  to  mine,  when  the  waiter  put  some  ice  in  his 
glass,  I  heard  a  Congressman  ask  how  much  of  the  ice  on 
the  Isthmus  was  artificial.  I  could  see  the  face  of  the  man 
who  was  doing  the  honors.  He  deserves  a  medal  for  the 
serious  way  in  which  he  explained  that  in  the  tropics  all 
ice  is  artificial.  I  overheard  some  others  discussing  sani- 

"You  can  never  make  me  believe/'  said  one,  "that  a 
mosquito  bite  can  give  a  man  yellow  fever." 


"I  don't  know,"  another  replied.  "But  even  if  it  is  true, 
four  million  dollars  is  an  awful  lot  to  spend  killing  them." 

My  friend  told  me  that  one  of  the  Congressmen,  when  he 
was  shown  the  site  of  the  locks  at  Gatun,  became  wildly 
indignant  and  said  he  thought  that  Congress  had  decided 
on  a  sea-level  canal. 

And  these  men  will  go  home  and  make  speeches,  out  of 
their  copious  ignorance,  on  the  floor  of  the  House,  and, 
what  is  worse,  among  their  constituents,  where  there  is 
some  chance  of  their  being  believed.  And  after  every  mis- 
statement  they  will  say,  impressively,  "I  know,  because 
I've  been  there." 

After  the  dinner  I  found  that  a  ball  was  to  be  given  in 
honor  of  the  Congressmen.  The  day's  work  was  over,  and 
even  the  presence  of  the  critics  from  home  could  not  keep 
the  employees  from  having  a  good  time.  The  parlor  of  the 
Tivoli  makes  as  fine  a  ball-room  as  any  I  know.  And  a 
prettier,  daintier  crowd  of  women  I  have  never  seen.  Hot 
water  and  grit  soap  had  been  busy  on  the  men,  and  the 
scene,  except  that  some  of  the  men  were  in  white,  looked 
like  a  college  dance.  I  was  especially  pleased  to  see  the 
young  couple  I  had  noticed  down  the  line.  I  never  would 
have  recognized  the  man  if  I  had  not  seen  him  dancing  with 
the  girl.  Cleaned  and  polished,  with  an  orchid  on  the  lapel 
of  his  dinner-coat,  he  looked  about  as  different  from  the 
grimy  young  engineer  of  five  o'clock  as  could  well  be  im- 

It  was  rather  a  shock,  when  I  went  to  my  room  and 
looked  out  of  the  window,  to  find  the  moon  rising  out  of 
the  Pacific  Ocean.  There  are  not  many  places  on  the 
American  continent  where  this  phenomenon  is  to  be  seen. 
Of  course,  by  looking  at  the  map,  you  can  see  that  the 
Isthmus  is  like  a  letter  S,  with  Colon,  the  Atlantic  terminus 
of  the  Canal,  west  of  Panama  on  the  Pacific;  but  somehow 

THE    CANAL   ZONE   IN   1909  53 

it  did  not  reconcile  me  to  the  confusion  of  directions.  It 
took  some  time  to  accustom  myself  to  looking  eastward  to 
see  the  Western  Ocean. 

I  turned  in  with  an  unusual  sense  of  satisfaction.  The 
two  big  impressions  that  first  day  on  the  Isthmus  had  given 
me  were:  First,  the  sublime  confidence  of  the  men — the 
absence  of  any  doubt  as  to  eventual  achievement.  "Of 
course  we'll  dig  the  ditch."  And,  second,  the  esprit  de  corps 
implied  in  the  "we"  of  that  expression.  I  did  not  hear 
any  one  talk  of  what  he  as  an  individual  was  doing.  Nor 
did  I  hear  any  one  tell  of  what  "they"  were  doing — it  is 
always  "we."  An  ink-stained  clerk  from  the  Department 
of  Civil  Administration,  who  never  had  any  more  intimate 
connection  with  a  steam  shovel  than  I  have,  said  to  me 
boastfully:  "Well,  we  knocked  the  top  off  the  record  for 
dry  excavation  again  this  month."  It  is  what  Maeterlinck 
calls  "the  Spirit  of  the  Hive." 

For  a  people  with  such  undaunted  confidence  and  this 
trick  of  pulling  together  there  is  no  limit  to  achievement. 



HAVING  once  crossed  the  Isthmus  to  Panama  City  there 
is  very  little  in  Colon  to  call  one  back — except  the  boats 

There  is  nothing  distinctive  about  Colon.  There  are  a 
dozen  towns  scattered  along  the  Caribbean  Sea  which  are 
similarly  unattractive.  It  has  much  better  health  now-a- 
days  than  its  neighboring  rivals — but  there  are  no  "  tourist 
possibilities"  in  a  Sanitary  Record. 

However,  if  you  must  go  there,  you  will  find  a  broad, 
well-paved  street  with  shipping  docks  on  one  side — cutting 
off  the  sea  breeze — and  on  the  other  a  fairly  regular  sequence 
of  chances  to  change  your  money  to  native  currency,  to 
buy  a  drink,  a  picture  post-card,  a  Chinese  curio,  a  lottery 
ticket — change  your  money  and  so  on.  The  saloons  are 
the  most  ambitious  enterprises  of  Front  Street.  Two  of 
them  boast  of  "lady  orchestras"  and  one  advertises  a 
"Palm  Room." 

The  shipping  business  is  of  course  immense.  French, 
German,  English  and  American  passenger  boats  call  regu- 
larly. And  I  doubt  if  there  is  a  flag  afloat  which  does  not 
sometimes  visit  Colon  on  a  freighter.  The  trans-shipping 
of  cargoes  to  and  from  the  Pacific  makes  a  great  show  of 

But  in  all  this  the  natives  of  the  Isthmus  have  little  part 
or  interest.  When  I  last  came  down  on  a  Hamburg-Ameri- 
can boat,  we  picked  up  a  deck-crew  of  negroes  at  one  of  the 
West  India  islands. 



The  Panamanian — be  he  gentleman  in  fine  white  linen  or 
peon  in  part  of  a  pair  of  overalls — sits  languorously  in  the 
shade  of  a  palm  tree  or  a  packing  case  and  drowsily  watches 
the  rush  of  modern  commerce — goods  manufactured  abroad, 
carried  in  foreign  bottoms,  handled  by  alien  crews,  put  on  an 
American  railroad.  Of  the  millions  of  dollars,  pounds  ster- 
ling, francs,  marks  which  pass  through  his  country,  what 
little  sticks  in  transit  goes  to  Chinese  merchants  and  Yankee 
saloon  keepers. 

Doubtless  the  Lord  could  have  made  a  less  ambitious  peo- 
ple than  the  natives  of  Colon — but  doubtless  He  never  did. 

There  is  a  certain  amount  of  historic  interest  in  the  very 
unimposing  monument  to  the  founders  of  the  Panama 
Railroad.  There  is  some  charming  surprise  in  the  little 
stone  church,  built  by  the  railroad  for  its  employees — a  bit 
of  Suburban  Gothic.  The  lack  of  the  ivy — which  will  not 
grow  in  these  parts — makes  it  look  forlorn  and  homesick. 
And  there  is  much  surpassing  beauty  in  the  sea  view  from 
the  Washington  Hotel — a  broad  lawn,  a  file  of  cocoa  palms 
and  the  roaring  surf.  The  cocoanut  palm  is  one  of  the  most 
strikingly  frequent — as  it  is  one  of  the  most  lovable — features 
of  the  tropics.  Their  charm,  I  think,  lies  in  their  extreme 
individualism.  Even  in  what  they  call  a  "cocoanut  grove," 
each  palm  stands  out  alone.  They  have  no  social  ties — are 
absolutely  unconventional.  Each  has  its  peculiar  list  and 
its  unique  way  of  swaying.  And  there  is  no  tree  which 
combines  so  well  with  the  sea. 

Panama  City — across  the  continent,  but  only  two  hours 
away — is  a  different  proposition  from  Colon. 

Near  the  railroad  station  the  main  street  is  distressingly 
like  Colon  for  its  sequence  of  business  opportunities.  But 
beyond  the  Calle  8,  which  like  the  Paris  boulevards  used  to 
be  a  mighty  fortification,  you  enter  a  city  which  has  per- 
sonality. Just  to  the  left  of  what  used  to  be  the  Land 


Gate — there  was  a  moat  and  drawbridge  in  the  old  days — 
stands  the  Church  of  Nuestra  Senora  de  la  Merced.  It 
dates  from  the  end  of.  the  seventeenth  century  and  is  the 
second  oldest  church  in  the  city.  To  a  large  extent  Panama 
has  been  Hausmannized  by  the  American  sanitary  engi- 
neers. Streets  have  been  graded  and  straightened  and 
paved,  disease  infected  shacks  have  been  demolished.  Still 
many  crooked  streets  and  picturesque  bits  remain. 

No  matter  how  short  one's  stop  in  the  city  a  visit  to  the 
"Sea  Wall"  should  not  be  omitted.  This  is  the  best  rem- 
nant of  the  old  fortifications.  And  there  was  nothing  the 
Spanish  colonial  administrations  did  on  a  more  imposing 
scale  than  fort  building.  These  cost  so  much  that  the 
Spanish  king  is  reported  to  have  said  that  they  ought  to 
be  visible  from  his  palace  in  Madrid. 

When  the  tide  is  in — it  rises  twenty  feet — the  waves  wash 
the  foot  of  the  old  wall.  There  is  a  waist-high  parapet  on 
top  and  within  it  a  broad  cement  promenade.  If  you  walk 
heavily  the  prisoners  in  the  cells  below  can  hear  your  foot- 
steps. On  the  land  side  you  can  look  down  into  the  prison 
yard.  It  is  distressing  enough — as  are  prison  yards  the 
world  over.  Further  inland  you  see  a  strange  skyline — 
ancient  church  towers  decorated  with  mother-of-pearl,  and 
modern  corrugated  iron  roofs.  It  is  a  comfort  to  know 
that  the  ugliest  part  of  the  American  town  of  Ancon  will 
soon  disappear. 

But  seaward  the  view  is  by  itself  worth  the  long  voyage. 
Up  the  coast  to  your  right  is  Balboa — the  Pacific  entrance 
to  the  Canal.  It  is  a  busy,  smoky  place  of  tugs  and  dredges, 
machine-shops  and  the  West  Coast  steamers.  Close  in 
shore  are  the  three  little  islands  of  Naos,  Flemengo  and 
Culebra.  It  is  this  group  which  Congress  has  decided  to 
fortify.  Farther  out  you  see  the  larger  and  more  beautiful 
Taboga.  The  geologists  say  that  these  islands  were  the 


side  outlets  of  the  great  prehistoric  volcano  whose  principal 
core  made  Ancon  hill,  back  of  Panama. 

Straight  out  before  you  is  the  blue  Pacific — it  knows  how 
to  be  bluer  than  the  Atlantic  ever  dreamed  of. 

To  your  left  the  peaks  of  the  Cordilleras — which  the  Canal 
pierces  at  its  lowest  divide — rise  higher  and  higher  to  east- 
ward. It  is  only  a  question  of  the  clearness  of  the  atmos- 
phere how  far  you  can  see  them.  The  coast — an  alterna- 
tion of  white  sand  beach  and  mangrove  swamp — swings 
around  Panama  Bay  towards  Cape  Brava  and  the  Pearl 
Islands.  It  was  down  there  somewhere  towards  the  edge 
of  the  horizon  where  Europeans  first  saw  the  Pacific  from 
America.  There  is  a  hill  within  the  Canal  Zone,  which 
rumor  says  was  the  eminence  from  which  Balboa  first  saw 
the  sea — it  is  stated  as  a  fact  in  Nelson's  "Five  Years  in 
Panama" — but  the  records  show  conclusively  that  Balboa 
crossed  the  Isthmus  much  further  to  the  east. 

If  the  sun  is  at  just  the  right  angle  to  bring  out  the  con- 
trast between  gray  and  green  you  can  see  the  ruins  of  Old 
Panama  from  the  Sea  Wall.  All  that  the  Buccaneer  Mor- 
gan left  on  end  in  the  old  metropolis  was  the  tower  of  the 
church  of  Saint  Anastasius.  The  weather  beaten  gray 
stones  are  surrounded  and  overgrown  by  tropical  vegeta- 
tion. It  is  more  than  hard  to  see  from  a  distance  unless 
one  knows  exactly  where  to  look. 

There  are  two  times  when  the  Sea  Wall  is  at  its  best. 
Just  at  sun-down — the  breathing  time  in  the  tropics — it 
generally  offers  as  good  an  opportunity  to  observe  the 
people  of  Panama  as  one  can  get  in  a  short  stay.  The 
stroll  on  the  fortifications  is  as  necessary  an  apertitif  for 
some  of  the  natives  as  an  absinthe  is  for  a  Parisian. 

But  the  superlative  time  to  enjoy  the  Sea  Wall  is  on  a 
night  of  the  dry  season.  The  full  February  moon  coming 
up  out  of  the  sea  is  something  to  hold  in  the  memory  along- 


side  of  Rubens'  Venus  of  the  Hermitage  or  the  Taj  Mahal 
— things  which  one  must  travel  far  to  see  and  having  seen 
have  not  lived  wholly  in  vain.  By  day  the  horizon  seems 
very  far  away,  but  when  the  moon  slips  up  over  it  at  night, 
it  seems  almost  within  speaking  distance. 

Hardly  less  glorious  are  the  moonless  nights.  Canopus 
and  Eldeberon  and  the  Southern  Cross — all  the  stars  which 
Stevenson  loved  so  well — burn  so  close  and  so  brilliantly, 
that  you  hold  your  breath  in  wonder  that  you  are  not 
scorched  by  their  heat. 

All  the  literature  of  the  tropics  is  full  of  expressions  of 
wonder  at  how  they — once  seen — call  you,  till  like  Kip- 
ling's Tommy  Atkins,  "y°u  can't  heed  nothing  else."  They 
speak  meaningly  of  the  discomforts,  the  heat,  the  filth,  the 
smells,  the  vermin,  the  innumerable  diseases,  and  are  sur- 
prised that  people  who  have  escaped  always  want  to — some- 
times do — come  back.  I  think  the  nights — the  moon  and 
the  stars — explain  it. 

The  Cathedral  Plaza,  in  the  center  of  the  city,  is  also  a 
place  of  interest — and  some  beauty  of  foliage.  It  has  never 
seemed  to  me  that  the  Spaniards  knew  anything  particu- 
larly worth  while  about  architecture  except  what  they 
learned  from  the  Moors.  Their  architects  in  the  American 
colonies  seem  to  have  forgotten  most  of  that.  There  are 
no  beautiful  dwellings  nor  public  buildings.  But  some  of 
the  churches  are  impressive — and  interesting  from  their 

The  Cathedral  for  instance  was  built  from  the  private 
purse  of  a  Bishop  of  Panama,  whose  father,  a  freed  negro 
slave,  burned  charcoal  on  the  side  of  Ancon  Hill  and  ped- 
dled it  on  his  back  in  the  streets  of  the  city — as  one  may 
see  the  peons  doing  to-day.  The  Episcopal  See  of  Panama 
is  the  oldest  on  the  American  continent.  The  first  church 
was  built  in  a  temporary  colony  on  the  Atlantic  side — 


Santa  Maria  de  la  Antiqua  del  Darien.  The  seat  of  the 
Bishopric,  however,  was  soon  changed  to  Old  Panama  and 
no  trace  of  the  earlier  settlement  is  left.  This  bishop  was 
the  first  of  negro  blood  in  America  and  probably  the  first 
of  native  birth  to  wear  the  mitre.  Although  it  was  started 
long  before,  the  cathedral  was  not  completed  until  1760. 

Its  most  unique  architectural  feature  is  the  mother-of- 
pearl  decoration  on  the  crowns  of  the  two  towers.  Next  in 
value  to  the  Peruvian  wealth  which  flowed  across  the 
Isthmus,  came  the  pearl  trade  from  the  islands  off  San 
Miguel  Bay.  The  roofs  of  the  towers  were  covered  with 
fine  red  cement  in  which  were  embedded  pearl  shells  from 
the  fisheries.  Even  after  all  these  years,  when  the  sun 
breaks  out  after  a  shower  which  has  washed  the  dust  from 
the  shells,  they  sparkle  and  flash  like  great  jewels.  They 
can  be  seen  far  out  at  sea  like  some  giant  heliograph  and  are 
mentioned  as  a  landmark  in  some  of  the  old  books  on  navi- 

In  the  days  when  the  cathedral  was  building  the  See  of 
Panama  was  one  of  the  richest  in  the  world.  Votive  offer- 
ings of  priceless  pearls — tradition  speaks  of  one  as  big  as  an 
apple — ingots  of  gold  and  silver  were  offered  by  the  hardy 
and  devout  rapscallion  adventurers  of  the  day.  Among 
other  treasures  the  cathedral  boasted  an  authentic  Madonna 
by  Murillo.  What  became  of  all  these  riches  when  the 
property  of  the  church  was  sold  by  the  State  has  never 
been  satisfactorily  explained  by  the  officials  involved.  The 
lost  Murillo  has  probably  rotted  away — forgotten  in  some 

The  oldest  church  in  the  city  is  that  of  San  Felipe  Neri. 
The  keystone  of  its  entrance  arch  is  dated  1688.  It  is 
close  to  the  Plaza  Bolivar.  Although  little  of  its  exterior 
is  visible — having  been  built  about  by  a  girls'  school — it  is 
well  worth  a  visit.  It  shows  how,  in  the  buccaneer  days, 


the  Spaniards  trusted  in  God  and  built  their  church  walls 
to  resist  a  siege.  San  Felipe  near  the  Sea  Gate,  and  La 
Merced  at  the  Land  Gate,  were  redoubtable  fortresses. 

The  Church  of  San  Francisco  on  the  Plaza  Bolivar  has 
been  very  little  restored  and  probably  stands  to-day  more 
nearly  as  it  was  built  than  any  of  the  old  churches.  It  was 
completed  about  1740.  Its  old  cloisters  have  been  revised 
and  turned  into  the  College  de  la  Salle  by  the  Congregation 
of  Christian  Brothers.  But  the  ancient  convent  has  been 
torn  down.  The  Sisters  of  St.  Francis  led  a  life  not  unlike 
that  of  the  modern  Trappist  Monks — severe  in  the  extreme. 
Once  the  door  had  closed  on  them  they  never  left  the  Con- 
vent. After  the  religious  orders  were  expelled,  the  halls 
hallowed  by  the  sanctity  of  these  devoted  women  were 
turned  into  a  theatre.  And  there  La  divine  Sarah  cast  her 
spells  when  she  visited  the  Isthmus  in  the  eighties.  It  was 
an  experience  which  she  has  probably  never  forgotten. 
For  she  entirely  upset  the  heart  of  one  of  Panama's  leading 
Chinese  merchants.  This  bizarre  Celestial  expressed  his 
sentimental  crisis  by  touching  off  an  immense  package  of 
fire-crackers.  The  play  was — I  believe — "La  dame  aux 
camilles"  and  the  scene  in  which  Bernhardt  dies  so  ex- 
quisitely came  to  an  abrupt — and  hysterical — end. 

San  Domingo  is  the  best  of  the  ruins.  Tradition  has  it 
that  the  Dominican  monks  planned  and  built  their  own 
church.  They  had  trouble  with  the  arch  near  the  front 
entrance  which  supported  the  organ  loft.  The  first  one  fell 
as  soon  as  the  supports  were  removed.  Again  they  built  it, 
and  again  it  fell.  The  same  thing  happened  a  third  time. 
Then  they  decided  that  there  was  something  wrong  with 
their  plan.  Another  monk,  who  was  not  supposed  to  be  an 
engineer  nor  an  architect,  had  a  dream  and  produced  a  new 
plan.  When  the  arch  for  a  fourth  time  was  completed  and 
the  supports  were  about  to  be  withdrawn,  the  designer  stood 


Copyright  by  Fishbaugh. 

CULEBRA   CUT   IN    1909. 


under  it,  with  folded  arms — staking  not  only  his  reputation 
as  a  dreamer  but  also  his  life  on  his  inspired  arch.  It  stood. 
And  a  most  wonderful  arch  it  is.  It  is  almost  flat,  and  is 
absolutely  unique.  A  somewhat  similar  arch — copied  from 
it,  but  not  so  long — can  be  seen  in  the  Church  of  San  Fran- 
cisco. San  Domingo — as  well  as  most  of  the  city — was 
destroyed  by  fire  in  1737.  There  is  nothing  left  now  except 
the  walls  and  this  marvellous  arch.  If  you  ask  any  of  the 
canal  engineers  whether  the  earthquakes  are  likely  to  dis- 
turb their  work  they  will  show  you  the  ruins  of  San  Domingo 
where  this  flat  arch  has  stood — without  any  lateral  support — 
for  nearly  three  centuries. 

The  ruins  of  the  old  Jesuit  College — which  was  destroyed 
by  the  same  fire  of  1737 — are  mostly  torn  down  or  built 
about.  The  chapel  where  these  devoted  missionaries  wor- 
shipped is  now  used  as  a  cow-shed.  But  some  very  inter- 
esting concrete  decorations  can  still  be  seen. 

The  only  other  old  churches  are  San  Jose",  on  the  western 
sea  wall,  and  Santa  Ana,  Without-the- Walls.  The  latter 
was  built  as  a  thank  offering  for  some  long  forgotten  piece 
of  good  luck  which  befell  El  Conte  de  Santa  Ana — a  roys- 
tering  grandee  of  the  old  days.  It  has  an  interesting  altar 
service  of  hammered  silver — at  least  two  hundred  years  old, 
and  as  like  as  not  made  from  some  of  Pizarro's  Peruvian 

There  is  an  unpleasant  side  to  Panama  City.  It  is 
hinted  at  in  the  current  witticism  that  "the  Republic  of 
Panama  is  the  Redlight  District  of  the  Canal  Zone."  It  is 
of  course  a  gross  exaggeration  and  an  undeserved  insult  to 
the  people  of  the  country.  The  American  authorities  have 
passed  laws — and  are  able  to  enforce  them  in  the  Canal 
Zone — against  gambling  and  vice.  In  the  territory  of  Pan- 
ama there  are  neither  so  strict  laws  nor  so  rigid  enforcement. 
In  the  two  cities  of  Colon  and  Panama  there  are  sections — 


and  they  are  the  sections  nearest  to  the  American  territory 
— which  are  given  over  to  debauchery.  With  thirty  thou- 
sand men  employed  on  the  Canal,  and  easy  transportation 
along  the  line,  there  is — as  might  be  expected — a  Saturday 
night  emigration  across  the  border  to  the  jurisdiction  where 
the  Ten  Commandments  are  not  so  effectively  backed  up 
by  the  police.  But  on  the  whole  the  amount  of  red  paint 
which  is  smeared  over  the  Republic  of  Panama  by  the 
Canal  employees  is  surprisingly  small. 

As  in  most  Latin- American  countries  the  lottery  is  an 
established  institution.  It  runs  on  a  government  franchise, 
a  certain  percentage  goes  to  public  charity.  It  rents  its 
offices  from  the  Bishop  of  Panama — they  are  in  the  ground 
floor  of  the  Episcopal  Palace.  It  is  strictly  "honest"  and 
so  heavily  mulcted  by  the  authorities  that  the  stockholders 
do  not  get  the  extravagant  dividends  one  would  suppose 
from  estimating  the  chances. 

The  roulette  wheels  of  the  French  days  have  given  place 
to  "  poker  rooms."  They  are  no  longer  licensed  by  the  gov- 
ernment but  are  still  an  unmitigated  disgrace.  The  saying 
goes  that  "  a  sucker  is  born  every  minute."  Having  watched 
one  of  these  games  a  few  minutes,  I  have  decided  that 
most  of  the  "suckers"  grow  up  to  what  looks  like  man- 
hood and  come  to  the  Isthmus.  In  these  "poker  rooms" 
the  "house  rakeoff"  is  so  high  that  a  filled  table  is  said  to 
net  the  proprietor  $15.00  gold  an  hour.  This  is  sure  in- 
come, "the  house"  gets  it  no  matter  who  wins.  And  it  is 
practically  impossible  to  make  up  your  own  table.  Some 
of  the  "house  professionals" — notorious  sharpers — are  sure 
to  "sit  in." 

The  psychology  of  the  men  who  buck  such  a  game  is 
beyond  me.  I  doubt  if  there  is  an  American  on  the  Isth- 
mus who  is  not  entirely  convinced  that  they  are  crooked. 
Yet  the  tables  are  generally  full. 


A  much  pleasanter  side  of  Panama  life  are  the  Sunday 
night  band  concerts  in  the  Cathedral  Plaza.  The  music  is 
sometimes  surprisingly  good.  And  the  square — always 
picturesque  with  its  tropical  plants — is  crowded  with  the 
youth  and  beauty  of  the  Republic.  Some  of  the  senoritas 
in  spite  of  their  very  dark  skins  are  well  worth  turning  to 
look  at.  They  stroll  around  the  little  park  with  their  rather 
fat  mammas,  followed  at  a  respectful  distance  by  their 
admirers.  A  Panamanian  lover  is  a  faithful  swain  and 
easily  satisfied.  I  watched  one  young  fellow  follow  his  lady 
eight  times  around  the  square.  At  every  turn  she  looked 
back  and  smiled  at  him.  Mamma  elaborately  pretended 
to  ignore  this  passionate  pursuit.  The  young  people  did 
not  speak  to  each  other,  and  if  they  managed  to  exchange 
notes  they  were  mighty  clever  at  it. 

Courtship  is  a  long-distance  affair.  Most  of  the  houses 
in  the  city  are  two-storied  with  stores  downstairs.  After 
following  his  lady-love  from  the  Sunday  night  parade  in 
the  Plaza,  the  young  hopeful  takes  up  his  position  on  the 
sidewalk  opposite  her  home.  If  he  has  found  favor  in  her 
sight  she  eventually  appears  on  the  balcony.  The  length 
of  time  she  keeps  him  waiting  depends  on  her  heart  beats — 
if  they  are  rapid  she  comes  quickly.  Of  course  their  con- 
versation is  decidedly  limited  by,  (1)  the  distance,  (2)  the 
neighbors,  and,  (3)  mamma  who  sits  in  a  rocking  chair  and 
listens.  About  all  the  lovers  can  do  is  to  smile  at  each 
other.  If  the  young  man  stands  under  her  window  on 
other  nights  than  Sunday,  she  has  a  right  to  consider  that 
he  is  serious.  And  if  he  ever  shows  up  in  the  afternoons, 
the  neighbors  know  she  has  him  safely  hooked. 

Just  before  Lent  Panama  drapes  itself  in  bunting.  These 
Latin-American  neighbors  of  ours  dearly  love  a  fiesta.  And 
the  Carnival  is  the  greatest  of  them  all. 

Weeks  before  Mardi  Gras,  the  shops  begin  to  display 


masks  and  to  advertise  confetti.  But  the  preliminary 
interest  centers  in  the  election  of  the  Queen.  The  rivalry 
is  high.  And  the  election  generally  goes  to  a  daughter  of 
wealth,  for  the  tickets  have  to  be  paid  for.  The  last  night 
of  the  contest  the  respective  papas  go  down  in  their  pockets 
as  far  as  they  can  afford  to — often  farther.  To  have  your 
daughter  in  the  running  is  said  to  be  almost  as  great  a 
financial  misfortune  as  to  have  your  bank  fail.  As  usual 
politics  gets  into  it,  and  towards  the  last  the  contest  generally 
sifts  down  to  two,  one  of  the  Conservative  and  one  of  the 
Liberal  party.  It  strikes  an  outsider  as  a  rather  unro- 
mantic,  sordid  way  of  choosing  a  carnival  queen.  But  the 
winner — the  year  I  was  there — was  pretty  enough  to  satisfy 
anyone.  And  she  looked  so  radiantly  happy,  that  I  am 
quite  sure  she  did  not  realize  that  the  " honor"  had  cost 
her  father  close  to  five  thousand  dollars  and  that  she  might 
have  had  a  very  nice  motor-car  instead. 

The  gayety  lasts  four  days.  The  wealthy  young  men 
spend  their  time  on  horseback,  their  sisters  in  carriages. 
The  costumes  they  get  up  are  always  gorgeous,  sometimes 

The  women  of  the  poorer  classes  content  themselves  with 
the  native  costume— the  pollera.  It  is  a  very  full  and 
flouncy  skirt,  and  a  waist,  cut  extremely  low.  The  articles 
de  luxe  are  the  side-combs,  which  are  gorgeous.  And  many 
of  the  women  have  red  or  white  flowers  in  their  hair.  Some 
of  them  giant  fire-flies.  Almost  any  sort  of  a  gown  can 
look  attractive  on  an  attractive  woman  and  that  is  about 
all  one  can  say  in  favor  of  the  pollera.  The  men  of  the 
poorer  classes  go  in  for  the  fantastic  and  hideous. 

Mr.  Bidwell  in  his  "The  Isthmus  of  Panama"  quotes  an 
amusing  bit  from  the  letter  of  a  French  maid  whom  his  wife 
had  brought  to  Panama.  In  writing  to  a  friend  at  home, 
she  said:  "II  y'a  d  present  tout  plein  de  masques  dans  les 


rues,  comme  d  Paris,  pendant  le  Carnival,  seulement  qu' 
igi  ce  sont  des  vilains  negres  qui  n'ont  pas  besoin  de  masques 
pour  faire  peur"  (the  streets  are  full  of  maskers,  just  as  in 
Paris  during  the  Carnival,  only  here  they  are  villainous 
negroes  who  have  no  need  of  masks  to  frighten  one). 

The  dress-parade  is  in  the  Cathedral  Plaza.  The  fun — 
fast  and  furious — is  in  the  Plaza  de  Santa  Ana.  There  is  a 
very  pretty  ball  at  the  Hotel  Central,  presided  over  by  the 
Queen  and  her  Maidens-in-waiting,  and  a  much  noisier  ball 
at  the  Metropole. 

The  confetti  flies  for  four  days  and  nights  and  you  do  not 
get  it  out  of  your  hair  and  clothes  till  Lent  is  half  over. 

Panama  is  also  far  ahead  of  Colon  as  a  commercial  city. 
It  is  the  central  market  for  all  the  native  products,  except 
bananas,  and  is  the  distributing  point  for  the  entire 
Isthmus.  But  here  again  the  real  natives  have  little  in- 
terest in  business.  There  are  several  families  with  German 
or  Jewish  names,  who  have  lived  here  several  generations 
and  are  citizens  of  the  Republic.  They,  with  the  Chinese, 
control  most  of  the  trade  and  banking.  There  are  several 
capable  business  men  of  the  Arosomena  and  Arrias  families, 
mostly  occupied  in  real  estate  ventures  and  trading  with  the 
Indians.  But  on  the  whole  the  Panamanian  gentlemen  go 
in  for  politics  or  diplomacy.  After  all,  there  are  not  so  very 
many  of  them  and  there  is  an  endless  number  of  places  where 
a  consul  could  be  sent.  There  is  more  than  one  consulate 
which  never  collected  a  fee.  The  Liberal  party  is  now  in 
power,  so  of  course  some  of  the  Conservatives  have  to 

There  are  two  classes  of  Americans — exclusive  of  the 
Canal  men — to  be  found  in  Panama  City:  Pirates  and 

The  first  are  undoubtedly  most  numerous.  Their  activi- 
ties run  the  gamut  from  playing  stud-poker  "for  the  house" 


to  promoting  fake  development  companies.  It  is  certainly 
more  livable  in  the  States  because  they  are  here — but  it  is 
hard  on  the  Panamanians. 

There  are,  however,  a  few  earnest,  upright  Americans 
here,  who  foresee  the  time  when  the  riches  of  the  country 
will  be  needed  and  utilized.  That  there  are  opportunities — 
especially  in  agriculture  and  grazing  and  lumbering — no  one 
who  knows  the  country  will  deny. 

No  American  can  visit  either  Colon  or  Panama  without  a 
large  patriotic  pride  in  the  work  of  our  sanitary  engineers. 
These  cities — not  so  many  years  ago — were  called  the  worst 
pest-holes  in  the  Americas.  Our  men  have  built  water- 
works, put  plumbing  into  the  dwelling  houses,  dug  drains 
and  sewers,  paved  the  streets  and  established  so  effective  a 
quarantine  at  both  ports,  that  although  there  has  never 
been  a  time  when  some  of  the  South  American  ports  were 
not  infected,  there  have  been  no  cases  of  yellow-fever, 
beri-beri,  cholera  or  the  plague  on  the  Isthmus  for  several 
years.  There  are  few  places  at  home  so  much  like  Spotless 
Town  as  these  two  tropical  cities. 




THE  Republic  of  Panama  is  425  miles  long  and  averages 
70  miles  in  width.  Its  most  southern  point  is  a  little  above 
7  degrees  north  of  the  equator,  its  northern  point  about 
9°  50'.  It  is  in  the  same  latitude  as  Ceylon  and  Mindanao. 
It  is  almost  due  south  of  Buffalo. 

It  must  be  remembered  that  when  Balboa  discovered  the 
Pacific,  he  christened  it  the  Southern  Sea,  for  the  Isthmus 
runs  east  and  west.  Every  new  arrival  gets  the  points  of 
the  compass  twisted,  because  of  the  habit  of  thinking  of 
the  Pacific  as  a  western  ocean.  Panama  City  is  south  and 
east  of  Colon,  the  Atlantic  entrance  of  the  Canal.  In 
Panama  the  sun  rises  out  of  the  Pacific. 

The  land  frontiers  of  the  Republic  are  less  than  400  miles 
in  the  total  and  are  about  equally  divided  between  the 
Costa  Rican  and  Colombian  border.  But  the  total  coast 
line  is  over  1200  miles,  700  of  which  is  on  the  Pacific. 

The  most  important  physical  feature  of  the  Isthmus  is 
that  here  the  great  chain  of  mountains,  which  form  the 
backbone  of  the  hemisphere — from  Alaska  to  Patagonia — 
breaks  down  into  scattered  hills  and  low  divides.  At 
Culebra — where  we  are  making  our  deepest  cut — the  pass 
was  only  290  feet  above  sea  level.  The  highest  peak  in  the 
Republic  is  the  Cerro  del  Picacho  near  the  Costa  Rican  bor- 
der. It  is  a  little  over  7000  feet.  There  are  four  other 
mountains  in  the  western  provinces  which  are  over  5000 
feet.  They  gradually  decrease  in  height  to  the  center 



of  the  Isthmus  and  then  begin  to  climb  again  towards 
the  Colombian  borders,  where  they  again  approach  5000 

The  Republic  is  divided  into  the  following  provinces: 
(1)  Bocas  del  Toro,  (2)  Chiriqui,  (3)  Veraguas,  (4)  Los 
Santos,  (5)  Code",  (6)  Colon,  and  (7)  Panama.  The  last  is 
by  far  the  largest,  more  than  a  third  of  the  total,  and  Code 
is  the  smallest. 

Bocas  del  Toro  (the  mouths  of  the  bull)  is  the  extreme 
northwest.  It  is  notable  for  the  wonderful  Almirante  Bay 
and  Chiriqui  Lagoon.  They  are  really  one  body  of  water, 
as  the  long,  narrow  peninsula  which  divides  them  is  almost 
an  island.  It  will  be  remembered  by  students  of  President 
Lincoln's  administration  that  this  was  one  of  the  locations 
considered  by  our  Government  for  a  naval  station.  In  fact, 
it  is  almost  certain  that  if  Lincoln  had  not  been  assassinated 
we  would  have  acquired  the  Lagoon.  He  had  been  deeply 
impressed  by  the  difficulty  of  blockading  the  Gulf  ports 
without  some  such  base  and  he  kept  Seward  busy  trying  to 
acquire  one  of  the  West  India  islands  or  some  post  on  the 

The  Chiriqui  Lagoon  is  thirty-five  miles  long  from  east 
to  west  and  about  twelve  miles  wide.  It  is  an  unbroken 
sheet  of  water  and  navigable  for  the  biggest  warships. 

Almirante  Bay — really  the  northwestern  extension  of  the 
Lagoon — is  a  maze  of  waterways  between  its  numerous 
islands.  It  has,  however,  a  number  of  fairly  large  harbors 
and  deep  water  in  most  of  its  channels.  In  many  places  the 
banks  are  so  abrupt  that  a  deep  draught  steamer  can  tie  up 
to  the  shore.  The  mainland  is  a  tableland  about  600  feet 
high  and  within  a  few  miles  reaches  an  elevation  of  2000 
feet.  It  is  remarkably  salubrious,  and  on  account  of  its  ideal 
facilities  for  bathing  and  small  boating  and  its  marvellous 
scenery  seems  doomed  to  develop  into  a  smart  winter  resort. 


At  present  the  province  is  practically  a  feudal  domain  of 
the  United  Fruit  Company,  and  banana  growing  is  its  prin- 
cipal industry.  The  Chanquinolo  River  is  one  of  the  finest 
spots  in  the  world  for  this  fruit.  There  is  said  to  be  coal  of 
good  quality  in  the  province,  but  it  has  never  been  mined. 

Bocas  del  Toro,  a  town  of  about  6000  inhabitants,  is  the 
capital  of  the  province.  It  is  built  on  an  island  at  the 
mouth  of  Almirante  Bay  and  B  a  very  busy  port  of  export. 
About  five  steamers  and  as  many  sailing  vessels  clear  from 
Boca  every  week,  loaded  down  to  the  scuppers  with  fruit. 

The  Province  of  Chiriqui  lies  to  the  south  and  east  of 
Bocas  del  Toro.  It  has  considerable  frontage  on  both 

David,  the  capital,  has  about  8000  inhabitants  and  is 
rapidly  growing.  It  is  the  largest  inland  city  of  the  Re- 
public and  far  and  away  the  most  progressive. 

There  has  long  been  a  large  grain  and  cattle  trade  in  this 
province  and  new  crops  are  being  planted,  new  industries 
started  with  surprising  frequency.  It  is  the  favorite  loca- 
tion for  foreign  settlers.  The  reports  one  hears  from  those 
who  have  gone  in  for  agriculture  are  generally  favorable. 

In  1910  the  government  authorized  the  building  of  a  rail- 
road from  Panama  City  to  David.  A  good  deal  of  money 
was  spent  on  surveys,  and  the  talk  of  a  railroad  generated 
considerable  land  speculation  in  Chiriqui  and  the  intervening 
provinces.  Perhaps  this  was  the  end  which  the  framers  of 
the  bill  had  in  view.  It  was  hardly  a  practical  project. 
Neither  the  present  population  along  the  proposed  route 
nor  the  rosiest  estimates  of  the  value  of  the  undeveloped 
resources  in  the  neighborhood  warranted  so  great  an  outlay. 
Happily  this  scheme  was  vetoed  in  time.  Some  of  the 
money  is  to  be  spent  in  harbor  improvements  and  in  short 
lines  and  better  roads  inland. 

In  the  early  colonial  days  the  Spaniards  worked  some 


very  rich  gold  mines  in  the  mountains  of  Chiriqui,  and  one 
of  the  most  popular  industries  to-day  is  that  of  trying  to 
relocate  these  lost  mines. 

It  is  here  also  that  the  signs  of  the  highest  pre-Colombian 
civilization  have  been  found.  The  high  development  of  art 
and  architecture  with  which  Cortez  met  in  Mexico,  seems 
to  have  petered  out  to  the  southward.  In  the  other  states 
of  Central  America  some  imposing  ruins  have  been  found. 
The  largest  are  in  Guatemala.  In  Costa  Rica  there  are 
few  signs  of  architectural  development  and  the  pottery  and 
implements  are  more  crude.  In  Chiriqui  one  finds  only 
a  few  "painted  stones"  and  graves.  A  popular  form  of 
vacation  for  the  American  employees  on  the  Canal  is  to  go 
grave-robbing  in  the  country  back  of  David.  A  native 
walks  in  front  of  you  and  pounds  the  ground  with  an  iron 
rod.  If  he  gets  a  hollow  sound,  he  digs.  If  he  strikes  a 
grave  you  are  almost  sure  to  find  weird  pottery  and  some- 
times gold  ornaments.  M.  de  Zeltner,  a  former  French 
Consul  at  Panama,  has  written  an  interesting  brochure  on 
the  prehistoric  graves  of  this  district.  And  the  Smithsonian 
Institute  has  published  an  elaborate  description  of  them. 

Farther  east,  is  the  Province  of  Veraguas — wedge-shaped, 
with  only  a  few  miles  on  the  Atlantic  coast  and  a  couple  of 
hundred  on  the  Pacific.  It  is  remarkable  for  its  beautiful 
islands  and  Montijo  Bay,  the  second  of  the  great  harbors  of 
the  Isthmus. 

Coiba  Island  is  the  largest  in  the  Republic.  It  is  more 
than  twenty  miles  long,  well  wooded  and  fertile,  but  it  is 
very  sparsely  settled.  Jicaran,  further  out  to  sea,  is  much 
smaller,  but  rises  1400  feet  above  the  sea.  It  is  the  most 
beautiful  of  all — a  real  distinction  along  a  coast  studded 
with  beautiful  islands. 

Montijo  Bay  is  fourteen  miles  long  by  nine  broad.  Ce- 
baco,  an  island  fifteen  miles  long,  stretches  across  its  en- 


trance  and  makes  it  one  of  the  most  sheltered  harbors  ever 
contrived  by  nature. 

Veraguas,  and  the  small  Province  of  Los  Santos,  form 
together  a  peninsula  which  reaches  to  the  southern  extrem- 
ity of  the  Isthmus.  The  coast  then  turns  back — an  acute 
angle — and  runs  northwest  up  to  Parita  Bay  and  the  Prov- 
ince of  Code". 

These  three  provinces  are  the  least  developed  of  the 
Republic.  They  are  sparsely  settled.  The  blood  of  the 
population  varies  between  the  formulae:  one  tenth  Span- 
iard, one  tenth  Cholo  Indian,  eight-tenths  negro,  and  one- 
tenth  Spanish,  one-tenth  negro,  eight-tenths  Indian.  Near 
the  coast  the  negro  strain  predominates,  in  the  hills  that  of 
the  Indians. 

The  roads  are  the  merest  trails — impassable,  even  for 
Indians  on  foot,  during  much  of  the  rainy  season.  There  is 
very  little  circulation  of  commodities  beyond  navigable 
water.  The  population  has  the  ingrown  indolence  which 
comes  from  life  in  such  bountiful  countries.  It  is  only 
necessary  to  scratch  the  earth  with  a  stick  to  make  yams 
and  plantains  grow.  The  only  tools  needed  for  rice  are  a 
pair  of  hands.  And  one  could  not  stop  the  plentiful  har- 
vest of  cocoanuts  if  one  tried. 

Colon  Province  is  the  extreme  north  of  the  Isthmus. 
What  has  just  been  said  about  the  three  provinces  to  the 
west  applies  to  it,  with  the  exception  of  Colon  City.  And 
this  city  is  entirely  the  work  of  foreigners.  It  was  founded, 
and  at  first  called  "Aspinwall,"  by  the  Panama  Railroad 
Company  in  1850. 

The  province,  however,  is  rich  in  historical  interest. 
Columbus  himself  visited  the  coast  on  his  last  voyage  in 
1502.  He  named  Puerto  Bello,  and  what  is  now  called 
Colon  Harbor,  he  christened  Navy  Bay.  Not  far  from  the 
present  City  of  Colon  he  attempted  to  found  a  colony — it 


would  have  been  the  first  on  the  continent.  His  brother 
Bartholomew  landed  with  a  company  of  settlers,  but  the 
day  before  the  great  admiral  sailed  away  they  were  attacked 
by  the  Indians  and  driven  to  the  ships.  It  was  along  this 
shore  that  Don  Diego  de  Nicuesa,  seven  years  later,  strove 
so  desperately  to  gain  a  foothold  for  his  sovereign.  He  had 
set  out  with  a  brilliant  following  to  establish  a  Spanish  col- 
ony and  met  with  a  series  of  almost  incredible  disasters. 
Beaten  back  by  the  savage  natives,  buffeted  by  storms,  his 
ships  eaten  by  worms,  he  and  the  pitiful  remnant  of  his 
expedition  came  to  a  favorable  looking  harbor.  "In  the 
name  of  God,"  he  cried,  "let  us  stop  here."  "Nombre  de 
Dios,"  they  called  the  place;  it  is  still  on  the  map. 

East  along  the  coast  from  Colon  is  the  Gulf  of  San  Bias, 
named  after  the  most  unique  tribe  of  Indians  left  in  Amer- 
ica. The  San  Bias  have  never  been  conquered.  And  they 
have  preserved  their  ethnic  purity  as  intact  as  their  terri- 
tory. Their  coast  is  famous  for  its  cocoanuts — the  finest 
on  the  market.  A  number  of  schooners  trade  with  the 
villages  along  the  shore  and  on  the  islands.  But  there  are 
no  European  settlements  in  their  territory. 

The  Province  of  Panama,  with  long  coast  lines  on  both 
oceans,  is  the  eastern  extreme  of  the  Republic.  Most  of  it 
is  undeveloped.  But  there  is  considerable  cattle-raising. 
Several  companies,  with  foreign  capital,  have  been  estab- 
lished in  the  Bayano  Valley.  They  are  interested  in 
bananas,  cocoanuts,  vegetable  ivory,  rubber  and  cacao. 
A  lumber  company,  an  English  affair,  is  planning  to  exploit 
the  mahogany  and  cabinet  woods.  And  down  towards  the 
Colombian  border,  near  the  headwaters  of  the  Tuyra  River, 
are  the  properties  of  the  Darien  Gold  Mining  Company. 
The  mines  date  from  prehistoric  times  and  there  have  been 
very  few  long  interruptions  in  the  taking  out  of  bullion. 
At  present  the  company  is  run  under  an  English  charter, 


but  most  of  the  stockholders  and  the  technical  managers 
are  French. 

The  Province  of  Panama  contains  the  third  of  the  great 
natural  harbors  of  the  Isthmus.  San  Miguel  Bay,  with  its 
inner  Darien  Harbor,  is  a  natural  naval  station  without 
rival.  The  entrance  into  Darien  Harbor,  from  the  immense 
outer  bay,  is  almost  closed  by  a  large  island,  on  either  side 
of  which  are  deep,  safe  channels,  the  Boca  Chica  and  the 
Boca  Grande.  Beyond  them,  is  an  unbroken  expanse  of 
water,  thirty  miles  long  by  half  that  width.  All  the  navies 
of  all  the  nations  could  anchor  here  in  safety.  Half  a  dozen 
submarine  mines  would  make  the  place  the  surest  refuge  in 
the  world. 

The  big  tides  form  a  great  advantage  over  the  Chiriqui 
Lagoon.  They  rise  and  fall  fifteen  feet — and  at  "spring 
tide  "  twenty  feet.  The  shores  of  the  harbor  are  natural 
dry-docks.  Any  ships  which  visit  these  coasts  can  be  run 
up  on  the  beach  on  the  top  of  the  tide  and  left  high  and 
dry  when  it  falls.  A  further  advantage  is  that  the  Tuyra 
River  is  navigable  beyond  salt  water.  A  short  anchorage  in 
fresh  water  kills  the  barnacles,  which  are  the  pest  of  navi- 
gation in  these  waters. 

One  cannot  look  at  the  Chiriqui  Lagoon  on  the  Carib- 
bean, Montijo  Bay  and  the  Darien  Harbor  on  the  Pacific, 
without  regretting  that  the  Republic  of  Panama  is  not  a 
great  maritime  nation,  that  these  immensely  valuable  nat- 
ural harbors  should  be  unused. 

Off  the  mouth  of  San  Miguel  Bay  are  the  Pearl  Islands. 
The  archipelago  is  over  thirty  miles  long.  There  are  six- 
teen big  islands  and  innumerable  small  ones.  The  Isla  del 
Rey  is  over  ten  miles  long  and  as  big  as  all  the  rest  put  to- 
gether. Most  of  the  islands  which  have  fresh  water  are  occu- 
pied. There  is  a  considerable  output  of  cocoanuts  and  pine- 
apples, but  of  course  the  pearl  fisheries  are  the  big  industry. 


Taking  the  Isthmus  as  a  whole  its  most  noticeable  feature 
is  the  maze  of  innumerable  rivers.  As  a  rule  the  mountains 
are  nearer  the  Atlantic  than  the  Pacific;  so  most  of  the 
longer  rivers  are  on  the  southern  slope.  However,  the  Rio 
Code"  del  Norte  has  its  source  in  the  province  of  Code",  and 
crosses  that  of  Colon  to  empty  into  the  Caribbean.  The 
Chagres  River,  which  is  to  furnish  the  water  for  the  Canal, 
is  also  a  northern  stream.  It  is  about  100  miles  long  and 
navigable  half  that  distance  by  small  boats. 

The  largest  of  all  the  rivers  is  the  Tuyra,  or  Rio  del 
Santa  Maria,  as  the  old  maps  have  it.  From  its  mouth  in 
Darien  Harbor  it  is  navigable  for  small  steamers  and 
schooners,  fifty  miles  inland.  The  cayukas,  native  dugouts, 
go  up  it  and  its  tributary,  the  Chucunaque,  for  fifty  miles 

The  climate  of  the  Isthmus  has  a  much  worse  name  than 
it  deserves.  It  makes  a  very  creditable  showing  indeed  in 
regard  to  temperature.  There  is  no  record  of  thermometer 
ever  having  reached  100°  in  Panama  City.  There  are  many 
cities  in  the  States  which  cannot  make  such  a  boast. 

Mr.  Johnson,  in  his  "Four  Centuries  of  the  Panama 
Canal,"  has  summarized  the  mass  of  Government  observa- 
tions as  follows:  "At  Panama  the  hottest  time  of  day  is 
from  two  to  four  P.M.,  when  the  average  temperature  ranges 
from  81.6°  Fahrenheit,  in  November,  to  86.1°  in  March. 
The  coolest  hour  is  from  six  to  seven  o'clock  A.M.,  when  the 
average  temperature  ranges  from  74°,  in  January,  to  76.6° 
in  June.  The  general  average  of  highest  temperature  is 
84°,  and  the  lowest  75.1°."  There  are  very  few  places 
within  ten  degrees  of  the  equator  with  as  mild  a  record. 

But  when  it  comes  to  "humidity"  there  is  very  little  to 
be  said  for  the  Isthmus.  Even  in  what  is  called  the  "dry 
season"  the  humidity  runs  up  to  an  average  close  to  80°. 
The  average  for  the  whole  year  is  five  degrees  higher. 


Colon  has  an  annual  average  rainfall  of  140  inches  and  a 
record  of  180  inches.  In  Panama  the  annual  rainfall  is  not 
half  as  great — 60  inches.  In  Colon  one  must  expect  196 
rainy  days,  and  in  Panama  141,  out  of  the  365.  The  dry 
season  runs  from  the  middle  of  December  to  the  middle  of 
April.  The  rainy  season  is  the  other  eight  months. 

Outside  of  the  Canal  circles,  where  everyone  talks  of 
"The  Ditch,"  the  principal  subject  of  conversation  is  the 
opportunity  for  foreigners  to  make  money  in  Panama. 
The  attitude  of  the  Panamanians  is  enigmatical.  They  all 
speak  with  enthusiasm  of  the  development  of  their  country 
by  outside  capital — in  the  abstract.  But  the  moment  a 
proposition  becomes  concrete  they  freeze  up.  Any  effort  to 
get  official  papers — such  as  deeds — registered  meets  with  such 
disheartening  delays  as  to  smack  of  positive  hostility  to 

In  the  face  of  the  unquestioned  resources  of  the  Isthmus, 
there  is  remarkably  little  development. 

There  are  three  main  obstacles  in  the  way  of  foreign 
enterprise : 

(1)  The  uncertainty  of  land  titles.  There  are  a  dozen 
large  estates  which  would  be  bought  up  and  developed  at 
once  if  titles  were  clear,  which  are  tied  up  in  litigation. 
Always  some  of  the  heirs  are  obstructing  a  settlement,  in 
the  hope  that  the  next  turn-over  in  politics  will  put  some 
of  their  friends  on  the  bench.  There  are  almost  no  accurate 
surveys  and  the  records  of  the  land  office  are  a  mess.  In 
Honduras  an  American  once  found  a  deed  which  recorded 
the  corner  of  the  property  as  marked  by  "a  dead  mahogany 
tree,  with  two  ravens  on  the  branch."  Perhaps  the  Panama 
records  do  not  offer  so  crude  an  absurdity.  But  nine  out 
of  ten  of  the  myriad  springs  in  the  country  are  called 
"Aguadulce."  And  many  deeds  give  "a  spring  called 
Aguadulce"  as  a  boundary  mark.  Frequently  the  original 


land  grants  read  "from  the  sea  back  to  the  mountains." 
When  the  hinterland  had  no  value  this  was  a  satisfactory 
description,  but  it  is  now  a  fruitful  source  of  dispute.  Very 
few  landholders  know  definitely  how  much  they  own. 
During  my  last  visit  to  Panama,  an  Englishman  paid  for 
several  thousand  acres  of  timber  land.  When  he  took  pos- 
session, his  surveyor  could  only  find  a  few  hundred  acres. 
Mistakes  are  sure  to  occur  even  when  both  sides  are  acting 
in  good  faith,  and  the  opportunities  for  fraud  are  limitless. 
No  one  should  go  into  a  land  transaction  without  the  cer- 
tainty of  a  bona-fide  survey. 

(2)  The  next  obstacle  to  progress  is  the  dearth  of  good 
roads — the  almost  total  lack  of  bridges.     The  country,  for 
instance,  is  full  of  valuable  cabinet  woods.     A  dozen  con- 
cerns have  come  to  grief  after  acquiring  good  title  to  enough 
standing  mahogany  to  make  a  fortune.     It  is  next  to  im- 
possible to  get  the  stuff  out.     The  cost  of  transportation 
is  prohibitive.     The  same  handicap  burdens  every  under- 
taking but  weighs  especially  on  any  enterprise  the  product 
of  which  is  bulky  or  perishable.     There  are  immense  tracts 
of  valuable  banana  land  lying  fallow  for  want  of  transpor- 
tation.    It  works  both  ways  as  it  is  just  as  difficult  to  get 
machinery  and  provisions  in  as  it  is  to  get  your  commodity 

(3)  The  third  obstacle — and  the  most  serious  of  all  for 
a  large  undertaking — is  the  dearth  of  labor  force.     If  the 
enterprise  requires  steady  labor,  it  must  be  imported.     The 
native  population  is  small  and  long  tradition  has  habit- 
uated them  to  the  simplest  of  simple  lives.     Nature  is  so 
bountiful  that  a  man  can  easily  raise  a  family  according  to 
accepted  standards  of  living  by  two  days  work  a  week.     It 
is  easy  almost  anywhere  on  the  Isthmus  to  get  fifty  men  to 
work  for  you.     But  as  soon  as  they  have  earned  enough  to 
buy  a  year's  supply  of  powder  and  shot,  and  half  a  dozen 


needles  for  the  wife,  it  is  all  over.  Five  dollars  a  day  would 
not  keep  them  on  the  job.  They  will  have  to  be  educated 
up  to  a  new  and  very  much  more  complex  system  of 
"wants,"  before  they  will  become  reliable  workmen. 

The  banana  fields  of  the  United  Fruit  Company  in  Bocas 
del  Toro  are  the  biggest  foreign  enterprise  in  the  Repub- 
lic. They  have  successfully  overcome  the  last  two  ob- 
stacles. Their  fruit  grows  near  water  and  they  have  built 
a  network  of  rails  into  the  more  remote  fields.  They  con- 
trol good  harbors.  So  their  transportation  problem  is 
solved.  And  they  import  their  labor  from  the  West  India 
islands.  But  their  land  titles  are  in  a  bad  tangle  and  it  is 
costing  them  many  thousands  of  dollars  to  get  them  straight- 
ened out. 

The  Darien  Gold  Mining  Company  is  the  oldest  and  the 
most  firmly  established  in  the  country.  Their  titles  are 
clear.  They  run  a  small  steamer  weekly  from  Panama  to 
Marriganti  on  the  Tuyra  River  and  they  transport  upriver 
in  "cayukas"  and,  during  the  rainy  season,  in  a  flat- 
bottomed  stern-wheeler  to  the  head  of  navigation,  from 
which  place  they  operate  a  miniature  railroad  to  the  mine 
site.  They  also  have  to  import  most  of  their  labor.  Their 
profits  are  seriously  decreased  by  the  high  cost  of  transpor- 

Another  industry  in  which  there  is  considerable  capital — • 
mostly  local — is  pearl  fishing.  It  does  not  seem  to  be  well 
organized.  But  considering  the  slipshod  methods  it  is  very 
profitable.  The  "mother  of  pearl"  from  the  shells  pays  a 
small  interest  on  the  capital  and  all  the  real  pearls  are  clear 
profit.  There  are  twenty  or  thirty  ships  equipped  with 
diving  apparatus,  which  operate  at  the  islands  and  up  and 
down  the  coast.  But  the  majority  of  the  diving  is  done  by 
the  natives  of  the  Pearl  Islands.  They  are  enslaved  to  the 
companies  by  debt  and  are  viciously  exploited.  It  seems 


possible  that  a  concern  with  sufficient  capital  to  buy  out 
and  consolidate  the  rival  companies  and  organize  the  in- 
dustry might  make  money. 

Any  large  enterprise  by  outsiders  demands  sufficient 
capital  and  patience  to  secure  clear  titles,  efficient  trans- 
portation and  a  steady  labor  force. 

This  applies  only  to  "big  business."  The  Isthmus  offers 
opportunity  to  half  a  million  settlers  of  the  type  of  our 
forefathers  who  pushed  across  the  Appalachians  and  won 
the  West.  One  who  wants  to  live  close  to  nature  will  hunt 
long  before  he  finds  a  location  where  the  Old  Mother  is 
kindlier.  The  opportunities  for  small  homes  are  limitless. 
Much  fertile  land  is  unoccupied  and  can  be  taken  up  under 
the  homestead  law.  Dozens  of  profitable  crops  are  prac- 
tical— rice,  onions,  rubber,  bananas,  and  other  fruits. 

In  my  opinion  there  is  nothing  more  surely  profitable  than 
cacao.  The  consumption  of  chocolate,  both  as  a  beverage 
and  in  confections,  is  growing  steadily.  The  market  price  is 
rising  regularly  and  is  not  subject  to  the  speculative  irregu- 
larities which  make  coffee  and  rubber  little  better  than 
gambling.  Unlike  rubber,  the  cultivation  is  very  simple. 
It  is  a  neglected  crop,  as  is  everything  to-day  which  does 
not  promise  speedy  returns,  because  it  takes  eight  or  ten 
years  for  the  bush  to  reach  maturity.  But  I  have  seen 
trees  eighty  years  old  which  were  still  bearing  full  capacity. 

The  natural  history  of  the  Isthmus  has  not  yet  been  writ- 
ten. The  Smithsonian  Institution  is  at  present  conducting 
a  "biological  survey"  of  the  Canal  Zone.  I  have  had  the 
pleasure  of  meeting  several  of  the  outfit,  a  specialist  on 
beetles,  another  on  minute  moths,  a  fish  expert,  a  student 
of  mammals,  an  ornithologist  and  so  forth.  When  their  re- 
ports are  published  we  will  know  more  about  the  flora  and 
fauna  of  the  Isthmus  than  about  any  other  part  of  the 
world.  But  I  found  it  impossible  to  find  any  reliable  infor- 


mation.  The  natives  of  Taboga  Island  will  assure  you  that 
every  year  the  land  crabs  come  down  to  the  village  in  great 
numbers  to  join  the  Good  Friday  procession.  They  prob- 
ably come  down  from  the  hills  to  deposit  their  eggs  near 
the  shore  at  that  time  of  year.  Most  of  the  information 
about  birds  and  beasts  and  flowers  which  can  be  gained  from 
the  natives  is  equally  unreliable. 

The  data  on  flora  and  fauna  given  by  the  old  chroniclers 
is  not  much  better.  In  "  A  letter,  giving  a  description  of 
the  Isthmus  of  Darien  .  .  .  from  a  gentleman  who  lives 
there  at  present,"  which  was  printed  in  Edinburgh  in  1599, 
I  find  the  following  paragraphs: 

5.  "To  write  further  of  the  trees,  it  would  fill  a  good  many  sheets." 

6.  "There  are  also  crocodiles.     I  could  tell  you  a  good  true  story 
about  one  of  them,  but  being  too  tedious  I  forbear." 

7.  "There  is  a  great  dale  of  Doggs,  Deer,  Rabbets,  and  Monkeys, 
and  many  other  sorts  of  Quadrupeds,  which  Ye  have  not  the  like  of 
in  Europe."     .     .     .     "There  is  another  small  Bird  here  called  Cabre- 
ros,  or  Goat-Keepers;    in  these  Birds  are  seven  distinct  Bladders  of 
Gall,  and  their  Flesh  is  as  bitter  as  Aloes:  Of  these  we  have  abundance." 

8.  "There  is  a  Root  called  by  the  Indians  Cazove  of  which  they 
make  a  liquor  called  Vey-Cou  much  like  unto  Beer. 

"Another  fruit  called  Bananas,  is  an  excellent  Liquor,  which  in 
strength  and  Pleasantness  of  tast,  may  be  compared  to  the  best  Wines 
of  Spain.  But  this  Liquor  easily  causes  Drunkenness." 

There  are  very  few  dangerous  animals.  There  is  a  sort  of 
wild  cat  which  the  natives  call  lions,  lots  of  alligators  and 
some  snakes  and  scorpions,  but  I  have  never  heard  of  a 
trustworthy  account,  nor  have  I  met  anyone  who  has  heard 
such  an  account  of  any  man  having  lost  his  life  from  any 
of  these  animals. 

There  are  lots  of  queer  animals,  tapirs,  ant-eaters,  the 
giant  lizard  of  Central  America — the  iguana.  And  there 
are  no  end  of  gorgeous  exotic  birds,  paroquets  and  humming 
birds.  Most  beautiful  of  all  are  the  snow-white  aigrette 


herons,  of  which  one  sees  hundreds  on  the  rivers  of  the 

Judging  from  my  notebooks,  I  think  I  saw  a  new  flower 
every  minute  I  spent  in  the  interior.  Very  few  of  them 
were  familiar.  Everywhere  the  jungle  is  full  of  orchids. 
It  is  quite  probable  that  a  profitable  business  might  be  made 
of  shipping  the  more  beautiful  varieties  to  the  home  marketf 



THERE  is  little  real  friendship  between  the  Americans  on 
the  Isthmus  and  the  natives. 

In  temperament  and  tradition  we  are  miles  away  from 
the  Panamanians.  The  hostility  between  Latin  and  Saxon 
probably  dates  back  to  the  old  Roman  days  when  the 
Saxons  first  began  to  plunder  the  Latins. 

When  the  Spanish  Empire  sprang  up  in  America,  its  most 
relentless  enemies  were  the  protestants  of  England.  Even 
in  the  odd  moments  when  the  two  mother  countries  were 
not  at  war,  the  colonists  never  buried  the  hatchet.  From 
the  days  of  Drake  till  the  fall  of  Carthagena,  the  Latin 
people  of  Central  America  lived  in  constant  fear  of  the 
English  buccaneers. 

Since  our  revolution  they  have  transferred  this  dread  to 
us.  Gradually,  but  apparently  relentlessly,  the  United 
States  have  expanded — always  at  the  cost  of  Spanish  Amer- 
ica. Florida,  Texas  and  California,  the  Philippines,  Porto 
Rico,  one  after  the  other,  have  disappeared  down  the  maw 
of  what  out  southern  neighbors  are  wont  to  call  "The 
Northern  Vulture." 

Very  many  of  our  representatives  in  the  Canal  Zone 
have  made  sincere  efforts  to  establish  friendly  relations 
with  the  native  population.  A  few  still  continue  such 
efforts,  but  most  have  given  it  up  as  hopeless.  The  two 
people  live  side  by  side,  meet  occasionally  at  the  theatre 
or  public  receptions,  but  very  rarely  become  intimate. 



Perhaps  half  a  dozen  American  men  have  married  Pana- 
manian wives.  I  have  not  heard  of  a  single  American 
woman  marrying  a  native. 

The  age-old  hostility  to  the  " Gringo"  is  deep-rooted. 
Differences  in  language,  customs  and  religious  practices 
keep  the  breach  wide. 

So  any  description  of  the  people  is  necessarily  that  of  an 
outsider.  Very  likely  many  of  the  things  which  seem 
ludicrous  or  unlovely  to  us  might  be  understood  and  over- 
looked if  they  would  admit  us  to  greater  intimacy. 

Panamanian  society  is  sharply  divided  in  classes.  The 
people  on  top  are  either  old  Spanish  families,  whose  income 
is  dependent  on  land,  or  well-established  families  of  foreign 
extraction  who  have  been  naturalized  for  many  years  and 
whose  source  of  income  is  industrial.  The  descendants  of 
the  Conquistadores  look  down  on  these  parvenu  families  in 
private,  but  are  so  generally  in  debt  to  them  that  they  dare 
not  do  so  in  public.  They  form  a  pretty  solid  social  block. 

The  division  in  regard  to  politics  is  sharper  than  that  of 
heredity.  At  present  the  Liberal  party  is  in  power  and  the 
Conservatives  are  getting  social  as  well  as  political  snubs. 
One  of  the  most  noticeable  things  about  these  people  is  their 
inability  to  bury  political  differences.  Theirs  is  a  politic 
of  personalities,  first,  last  and  all  the  time.  The  Conserv- 
ative members  of  "The  Union  Club"  are  resigning — 
although  the  club  was  formed  as  a  place  where  the  two 
sides  could  meet  socially — because  they  feel  that  they  have 
not  been  fairly  treated  in  committee  appointments.  As  a 
general  proposition,  Conservatives  and  Liberals  will  not 
break  any  manner  of  bread  together.  During  the  elections 
for  the  Queen  of  the  Carnivals,  all  good  Liberals  vote  for 
the  daughter  of  a  Liberal. 

This  political  bitterness,  which  shows  itself  so  unpleas- 
antly in  social  life,  goes  to  even  worse  extremes  in  the 


business  of  politics.  Every  political  turn-over  means  an 
entire  house  cleaning.  Every  government  official,  from 
judge  to  street  cleaner,  loses  his  job — to  make  way  for  a 
member  of  the  triumphant  party.  The  Liberal  party,  now 
in  power,  has  developed  the  "machine  patronage  system" 
to  ludicrous  lengths.  They  seem  bent  on  creating  a  job 
for  every  one  of  a  safe  majority  of  voters.  Panama  City 
has  enough  policemen  for  a  city  ten  times  its  size.  Consu- 
lates have  been  sprinkled  all  over  the  map — often  in  places 
that  never  saw  a  Panamanian  till  the  consul  arrived. 

There  is  absolute  unanimity  on  the  question  that  what 
the  Republic  needs  before  and  above  everything  else  are 
roads.  With  its  long  coast  lines  and  many  navigable  rivers, 
it  is  unusually  adapted  to  the  cheapest  of  all  forms  of  trans- 
portation— by  water.  Small  amounts  of  money  spent  in 
harbor  works  in  half  a  dozen  places,  a  few  good  roads  lead- 
ing inland  from  the  harbors,  would  open  up  large  districts. 
Yet  the  1910  National  Assembly  voted  to  tie  up  all  the  re- 
serve capital  of  the  nation  in  a  railroad  of  doubtful  utility. 
Railroading  is  always  expensive  transportation;  in  tropical 
countries  it  is  especially  so. 

The  little  Republic  of  Panama  made  its  bow  to  the  world 
in  the  enviable  position  of  having  several  dollars  per  capita 
in  the  bank,  when  most  of  its  older  sisters  were  heavily  in 
debt.  Much  of  this  reserve  has  been  squandered  in  riotous 
building  of  national  theatres  and  national  universities  or  in 
more  riotous  pay  rolls.  Very  little  of  it  has  gone  in  real 
development  of  the  country. 

What  is  not  plain  graft  is  grandiose.  They  are  building 
elaborate  buildings  for  a  National  Institute  to  which  they 
tell  you  quite  seriously  all  the  youth  of  Central  America,  if 
not  Europe  and  Asia,  will  flock.  It  is  admittedly  too  big 
for  the  needs  of  the  Republic.  That  it  takes  generations 
for  a  university  to  acquire  sufficient  fame  to  attract  foreign- 


ers  seems  not  to  have  suggested  itself  to  them.  That  they 
may  have  trouble  in  collecting  a  really  erudite  faculty  has 
also  been  ignored.  The  project  is  on  a  par  with  their 
National  Theatre.  It  is  an  imposing  building  which  would 
do  credit  to  a  metropolis.  It  is  not  lighted  fifty  nights  in 
a  year.  During  my  second  visit  to  Panama  (a  three  months 
stay)  it  was  only  opened  once — for  an  amateur  performance 
arranged  by  American  ladies  for  the  benefit  of  the  Red 
Cross.  But  it  is  possible  that  Bernhardt  may  visit  the 
Isthmus  again.  It  is  necessary  to  have  a  suitable  theatre 
for  her.  It  is  possible  that  one  of  the  youngsters  who  is 
getting  a  very  poor  sort  of  an  education  in  the  present 
schools  may  develop  into  an  Abelard,  and  forsooth  it  is 
necessary  to  build  his  Sorbonne  in  advance — especially 
when  the  contract  for  construction  is  profitable. 

A  further  consideration  is  undoubtedly  in  the  minds  of 
the  "liberal"  statesmen.  They  cannot  hope  to  keep  in 
power  forever,  so  what  is  the  use  of  leaving  anything  for  the 
hated  Conservatives  to  get  away  with? 

My  view  of  Isthmanian  politics  may  be  flippant,  but  if 
so,  the  blame  is  due  to  several  of  her  prominent  citizens 
who,  when  I  went  to  them  with  hope  of  getting  at  the  real 
matter  of  principle  involved  in  their  politics,  gave  me  noth- 
ing but  cheap  invective.  If  there  is  really  any  difference 
in  principle  between  the  parties,  it  is  not  to  be  found  in  the 
" press"  of  the  country. 

Below  this  class,  composed  of  landed  gentry  politicians 
and  financial  industrial  politicians,  lies  the  great  mass  of 
the  people,  who  take  no  more  part  in  government  affairs 
than  they  do  in  government  receptions.  One  sees  them  at 
their  worst  in  the  cities,  as  is  true  in  every  country.  The 
Sanitary  Department  has  cleaned  up  the  slums,  and  the 
housing  conditions  are  better  than  in  many  more  prosperous 


In  the  country  they  lead  a  sort  of  Arcadian  life.  There 
is  much  free  land,  and  those  who  have  not  acquired  any 
property  "squat'7  wherever  the  fancy  strikes  them. 

Of  course,  the  base  of  the  population  is  Indian — a  squat, 
square-faced  type,  completely  unlike  the  illustrations  in  the 
de  luxe  editions  of  Hiawatha.  There  are  two  main  ethnic 
groups  of  Indians.  The  Cholos,  a  fairly  pure  type  is  found 
in  the  mountains  of  Code"  province,  are  scattered  all  up 
and  down  the  west  coast,  from  the  borders  of  Mexico  to 
the  edge  of  Peru.  The  early  Spanish  adventurers  found 
that  friendly  Indians  from  the  Isthmus  could  act  as  inter- 
preters within  these  limits. 

In  the  northeastern  part  of  the  country,  beginning  at 
the  Gulf  of  San  Bias  and  extending  almost  to  the  Colom- 
bian border,  and  inland  to  the  Chucunaque  River,  are  the 
San  Bias.  Probably  of  the  same  race  as  the  Cholos,  they 
have  become  differentiated  in  the  four  centuries  since  the 
visit  of  Columbus,  in  that  they  have  never  been  conquered 
and  have  not  allowed  intermarriage.  They  boast  that  "no 
San  Bias  woman  has  borne  a  half-breed,  that  no  San  Bias 
man  has  fathered  a  mongrel."  They  are  estimated  at 
about  20,000,  and  are  reputed  to  be  well  armed.  As  the 
Republic  has  no  army,  they  have  every  prospect  of  main- 
taining their  independence  for  a  long  time  to  come. 

They  are  not  unfriendly  to  white  men,  and  treasure  an 
especial  respect  for  tlie  English,  who,  tradition  tells  them, 
are  irreconcilable  enemies  of  their  enemies,  the  Spaniards. 
The  San  Bias  men  frequently  come  up  to  Colon  and  Pan- 
ama with  cayukas  laden  with  cocoanuts  and  scrap  rubber 
which  they  trade  for  powder  and  salt  and  needles  and 
cloth.  They  allow  traders  along  their  coast,  but  never 
permit  them  to  stay  on  shore  during  the  night.  They 
guard  their  women  to  such  an  extent  that  a  white  man 
rarely  sees  one  of  them  except  through  glasses.  The  mo- 


ment  a  stranger  approaches  a  village,  the  women  disappear 
into  the  bush. 

The  San  Bias  men  who  come  up  to  town — like  the  Cho- 
los — speak  Spanish,  but  whether  or  not  they  have  forgotten 
their  own  language  I  could  not  make  sure.  A  trader  from 
Yavisa  on  the  Chucunaque  told  me  that  Spanish  was  their 
only  language.  Some  Altantic  coast  traders  maintained 
the  opposite,  that  only  a  few  of  the  men  learned  Spanish, 
and  that  their  native  language  was  still  used. 

The  Cholo  Indians  have  not  preserved  their  ethnic  purity 
and  seem  to  have  no  sentiment  in  the  matter.  Most  of  the 
crossing  has  been  with  negroes,  the  slaves  of  colonial  days, 
their  descendants,  and  the  recent  immigrants  from  the 
West  Indies.  But  the  crossing  of  the  races  has  been  varied 
in  the  extreme.  At  El  Real  on  the  Tuyra  River,  a  pure  type 
of  Cholo  girl  was  married  to  the  leading  Chinese  merchant, 
and  had  two  almond-eyed  and  yellow-skinned  youngsters. 
It  is  generally  affirmed  that  aside  from  the  San  Bias  people, 
no  native  of  Panama  is  of  pure  blood.  The  color  line  is  not 
drawn  very  sharply  in  the  official  and  social  circles  of  the 
cities,  so  of  course  it  is  not  on  the  country  side. 

Family  life  is  simple  in  the  extreme.  John  and  Jennie, 
or  more  probably  Jose"  and  Dolores,  walk  off  some  fine  day. 
If  they  happen  to  pass  a  priest,  they  may  stop  and  get 
married.  When  they  find  a  satisfactory  place,  it  does  not 
take  them  many  days  to  get  settled.  They  have  probably 
started  out  with  a  couple  of  machetes,  an  earthen  pot  and 
a  hammock.  They  build  a  roof  and  hoist  it  up  on  four 
poles.  They  begin  cutting  out  a  clearing,  and  at  the  end 
of  the  dry  season,  burn  off  the  fallen  timber.  Until  their 
first  crop  comes  to  harvest,  they  borrow  rice  and  yams  and 
plantains  from  their  relatives  if  there  does  not  happen  to 
be  a  stranger  more  near  at  hand.  In  the  course  of  a  few 
years  they  have  as  many  children,  their  original  shelter  has 


been  turned  into  a  kitchen,  and  a  new  rancho  with  woven 
walls  has  become  their  residence.  They  have  several  acres 
under  mild  cultivation.  The  bananas  and  oranges  have 
begun  to  bear.  Dolores  has  woven  several  new  hammocks, 
has  moulded  several  new  pots  and  pans,  and  has  made  a 
dozen  different  household  utensils  out  of  the  fruit  of  their 
thriving  calabash  tree.  They  have  become  people  of  con- 
sideration, and  are  now  in  a  position  to  lend  yams  and  rice 
to  more  recently  established  homes. 

Once  a  year  or  so,  Jose*  sets  out  for  the  nearest  town. 
He  loads  up  with  various  medicinal  gums  they  have  gath- 
ered, a  few  pounds  of  rubber  scrap,  and,  if  Dolores  is  a 
clever  artisan  at  hat  weaving  or  gourd  carving,  with  her 
handiwork.  On  the  way  he  stops  at  every  hacienda  he 
passes  and  asks  for  work.  In  due  course  he  reaches  town 
with  a  handful  of  silver,  buys  what  supplies  he  needs  and 
returns  to  Dolores  for  another  long  sleep.  As  soon  as  the 
oldest  boy  grows  up,  he  sends  him  to  town  instead,  and 
sleeps  all  the  year  round. 

In  all  my  trips  into  the  interior,  I  never  found  a  native 
white  man  who  was  truly  hospitable,  and  never  found  an 
Indian  who  was  not.  However,  I  would  not  care  to  gener- 
alize from  my  experience. 

The  formal  tribal  relations  have  broken  down  among  the 
Cholo  Indians.  They  appear  to  be,  according  to  Herbert 
Spencer's  ideal,  the  happiest  of  people,  for  they  are  cer- 
tainly the  least  governed.  Half  a  dozen  whom  I  questioned 
did  not  know  who  was  president  of  the  Republic.  There 
seems  to  be  in  each  community  some  old  man  who  is  gen- 
erally considered  wise.  Disputes  are  informally  submitted 
to  him,  but  he  has  no  authority  to  back  up  his  deci- 

The  jungle  stretches  on  all  sides  invitingly.  Very  few 
of  the  Indians  have  acquired  sufficient  property  to  bind 


them  to  a  locality  or  community;  and  if  a  man  felt  he  was 
unjustly  treated  by  his  neighbors,  he  would  move. 

The  landed  gentry  generally  live  in  the  cities.  Their 
haciendas  are  unattractive  places,  the  cultivation  of  their 
estates  is  almost  nil.  In  general,  their  income  comes  from 
cattle  raising  or  those  forms  of  agriculture  which  require  the 
least  human  labor.  There  is  none  of  the  slavery  of  which 
one  hears  so  much  in  Mexico,  partly  because  the  Pana- 
manian gentry  are  too  indolent  to  make  effective  slave  driv- 
ers, but  more  because  the  jungle  offers  such  ready  escape. 

Almost  every  time  you  find  an  even  moderately  well- 
cultivated  estate,  you  will  find  a  foreigner  as  foreman. 

The  homes  of  the  rich  are  strangely  unattractive  to 
Northerners,  and  this  is  especially  remarkable,  as  most  of 
the  upper  class  have  been  educated  abroad. 

I  spent  nearly  a  week  in  a  household  not  far  from  Pan- 
ama City.  They  were  the  most  important  people  of. the 
village,  and  reputed  to  be  rich.  They  were  so  nearly  white 
that  the  daughters  had  been  received  in  a  smart  finishing 
school  in  the  States.  Several  members  of  the  family  had 
been  in  Europe.  One  would  naturally  expect  certain  traces 
of  advanced  culture. 

It  was  a  large  one-storied  house,  with  unglazed  windows. 
One  room,  which  served  as  a  dining  and  living  room,  was 
papered  with  a  cheap,  gaudy,  green  and  gilt  paper,  stained 
and  moldy  from  humidity.  The  walls  of  the  other  rooms 
were  bare.  In  this  living  room  there  was  a  grand  piano 
which  had  been  out  of  tune  at  least  a  generation,  and  had 
been  superseded  by  a  graphophone.  Sousa  marches  were 
the  family's  preference  in  music.  On  the  wall  there  was  a 
chromo  portrait  of  Alphonso  XIII,  advertising  a  brand  of 
sherry,  and  a  hideous  crayon  enlargement  from  a  photograph 
of  the  father.  In  a  book-shelf  there  was  a  fine  old  set  of 
Cervantes,  a  couple  of  French  and  English  dictionaries  and 


text  books,  and  a  file  of  La  Hacienda,  an  illustrated  maga- 
zine published  by  and  in  the  interests  of  an  American  manu- 
facturer of  farm  machinery.  I  did  not  see  any  member  of 
the  family  reading  anything  but  the  daily  paper  from 
Panama,  although  they  could  all  read  and  speak  French 
and  English. 

The  ladies  of  the  household  spent  the  morning  in  dingy 
mother  hubbards  and  slippers.  After  a  heavy  midday  meal 
they  retired  to  their  hammocks.  About  four  o'clock  they 
took  a  dip  in  the  ocean,  sat  around  the  rest  of  the  evening 
with  a  towel  over  their  shoulders  and  their  hair  drying. 

About  a  month  later  I  encountered  one  of  these  young 
ladies  at  a  ball  in  Panama.  She  was  dressed  in  an  exqui- 
site Paris  gown,  and  was  strikingly  beautiful.  She  would 
have  passed  muster  in  the  most  exclusive  set  in  any  Euro- 
pean capital.  It  was  hard  to  believe  that  360  days  out  of 
the  year  she  led  the  slipshod,  slovenly  life  I  had  seen  in  her 

The  married  life  of  the  better  class  natives  does  not  seem 
attractive  to  Americans.  The  women  have  no  social  inter- 
course with  men,  except  at  infrequent  balls  and  formal 
dinners.  They  are  expected  to  keep  their  feet  on  the  rocker 
of  the  cradle  all  the  time.  The  men  lead  their  social  life  in 
cafes  and  clubs.  "Calling"  is  unknown.  Many  amusing 
stories  are  told  of  the  excitement  and  astonishment  caused 
by  Americans  breaking  over  this  custom.  There  were  a 
great  many  love  feasts  in  the  early  days.  Everyone  talked 
of  friendship  between  the  two  nations,  and  the  Americans 
believed  in  it.  And  our  young  men,  having  duly  met  the 
ladies  of  Panama  at  these  formal  functions,  proceeded  to 
"call"  in  form.  Invariably  they  found  the  ladies  in  "des- 
habille" and  tongue-tied  with  astonishment  at  the  invasion. 
The  husbands  were  outraged  at  this  attack  on  the  sanctity 
of  their  homes,  and  while  the  affair  fell  short  of  a  diplomatic 


incident,  a  lot  of  explaining  had  to  be  done  to  avoid  the  duels 
which  threatened. 

Considering  that  several  thousands  of  American  bachelors 
have  worked  in  the  Canal  Zone,  it  is  remarkable  that  so  few 
have  married  Panamanian  women. 

The  religion  of  the  country  is  Roman  Catholic.  Most  of 
the  men,  however,  seem  to  be  free  thinkers.  Even  more 
than  in  Protestant  countries,  the  congregations  at  the 
churches  are  made  up  of  women.  But  especially  at  fiestas 
the  churches  are  packed.  The  ceremonial  in  these  Latin- 
American  countries  is  not  as  attractive  as  it  is  in  Europe 
nor  as  impressive  as  it  is  in  Russia.  The  religious  fervor 
which  marked  the  clergy  in  the  early  days  of  colonization — 
the  missionary  spirit — seems  to  have  very  largely  given  place 
to  formalism,  and  rather  shoddy  formalism  at  that.  Even 
the  linen  on  the  high  altar  of  the  Cathedral  is  not  spotless. 
The  silken  finery  of  Nuestra  Senora  del  la  Merced  is  moth- 
eaten.  The  worshippers  seem  uninspired,  the  celebrants  of 
the  mass  half  asleep.  There  seems  to  be  no  singing  to  speak 
of.  Only  once  I  heard  some  sisters — and  it  was  a  sadly  un- 
trained chorus — chanting  a  mass  in  San  Felipe  Neri. 

The  old  journal  of  an  Englishman  who  was  held  some 
months  captive  by  the  Indians,  before  their  conversion,  tells 
of  how  they  used  to  put  bunches  of  flowers  and  piles  of 
bones  at  the  dark  places  along  the  trails — places  where  evil 
spirits  were  supposed  to  congregate.  If  you  ride  back  into 
the  interior  to-day,  in  all  such  fearsome  places  you  will  see 
bunches  of  flowers — and  rude  crosses.  In  every  "rancho" 
you  will  find  a  sacred  corner  presided  over  by  a  wooden 
cross,  and  sometimes  a  holy  picture.  The  Indian  women 
like  to  put  broken  pieces  of  looking  glass  about  these  shrines. 
But  beyond  this  it  is  hard  to  find  any  signs  of  Christianity 
among  the  natives. 

"Sport,"  in  the  Anglo-Saxon  sense,  is  hardly  known  in 


Panama.  The  nearest  approach  to  baseball,  for  instance, 
is  cock-fighting.  It  holds  a  place  in  the  hearts  of  the  peo- 
ple on  a  par  with,  if  not  above,  political  intrigue.  There  are 
cock  fights  every  Sunday,  and  elections  only  once  a  year. 

The  birds  are  raised  with  great  care,  and  are  trained 
and  fed  with  as  much  solicitude  as  a  prize  fighter.  Sunday 
morning,  while  the  women  are  at  church,  the  men  crowd 
into  the  cock-pit.  The  excitement  is  intense,  the  tobacco 
smoke  dense — and  the  sport  pitiful.  Two  cocks,  most  of 
their  feathers  shaved  off,  are  brought  into  the  ring  by  their 
keepers.  There  is  a  long  wrangle  over  odds,  and  then  bets 
are  tossed  in  from  the  circle  of  seats.  When  the  debate 
between  the  keepers  is  ended,  they  knock  the  roosters' 
heads  together  and  then  turn  them  loose.  I  sat  through  a 
couple  of  hours  of  it  once,  and  only  one  bout  of  a  dozen  or 
more  had  any  action  to  it — or  any  suspense.  In  the  other 
cases,  after  a  little  sparring,  one  cock  ran  and  the  other 
chased  it,  round  and  round  the  pit.  Every  few  minutes 
the  backer  of  the  fleeing  cock  would  persuade  it  to  turn 
round  and  face  the  foe,  but  in  a  second  the  chase  would 
begin  again.  The  bout  was  ended  when  one  cock  was 
smitten  with  heart  failure.  Perhaps  the  worst  thing  which 
can  be  said  of  the  Panamanians  is  that  cock  fighting  is  their 
national  sport. 

The  hostility  to  the  Gringos  is  industriously  fostered  by 
the  merchants  of  the  Republic,  few  of  whom  are  native- 
born  Panamanians. 

The  situation  furnishes  a  very  interesting  study  of  how 
far  political  passion  can  blind  people  to  their  economic 

The  Isthmian  Canal  Commission  has  developed  a  com- 
missary department  for  the  benefit  of  the  employees.  It 
is  an  immense  cooperative  store  where  great  economies  are 
effective,  and  the  prices  for  almost  any  article  are  appre- 


ciably  lower  in  the  commissaries  than  in  the  private  stores 
of  Panama  and  Colon.  The  merchants  of  the  Republic 
have  organized  a  bitter  opposition  to  this  system,  and  by 
their  influence  on  the  government  have  effected,  through 
diplomatic  channels,  an  agreement  by  which  the  privilege 
of  trading  at  the  commissaries  is  strictly  limited.  No  one 
who  is  not  a  canal  employee  or  a  member  of  the  diplomatic 
corps  can  enjoy  the  benefit  of  cheap  buying  without  a  special 
permit  from  the  President  of  the  Republic. 

Ice  is  almost  a  necessity  of  life  in  the  tropics.  A  private 
monopoly  in  Panama  City  manufactures  it  and  sells  it  at 
exorbitant  prices.  The  Commissary  has  a  fine  modern 
plant  and  furnishes  ice  to  canal  employees  at  cost.  A  few 
families  reap  immense  profit  from  the  ice  monopoly.  All 
the  natives  pay  exorbitant  prices  for  it.  If  the  National 
Assembly  should  pass  a  resolution  instructing  the  President 
to  request  the  Commission  to  extend  its  commissary  privi- 
leges to  the  people  of  Panama,  nine-tenths  of  the  population 
would  benefit  immensely,  and  only  half  a  dozen  already  rich 
families  would  suffer.  It  pays  these  families  to  stir  up 
patriotism  to  the  extent  that  the  natives  prefer  to  go  without 
ice  rather  than  touch  that  of  the  Gringos. 

An  even  more  striking  case  is  furnished  by  the  situation 
in  regard  to  electric  power  and  light.  The  same  clique  who 
own  the  ice  monopoly  have  an  antiquated  electric  plant, 
operated  by  coal  brought  all  the  way  from  the  States. 
The  unit  cost  is  ludicrously  high,  and  the  monopolistic  profit 
is  extortionate.  A  few  miles  out  of  Panama,  the  Commission 
is  installing  a  large  electrical  power  plant  to  operate  the 
Locks.  They  must  make  it  large  enough  to  handle  the 
maximum  of  traffic,  and  there  is  no  possibility  of  the  maxi- 
mum being  reached  for  years  to  come.  It  would  certainly 
pay  our  Government  to  furnish  light  and  power  to  Panama 
at  less  than  cost. 


A  small  clique,  probably  not  one  hundred  people,  includ- 
ing relatives,  is  succeeding  in  blinding  the  entire  city  to 
these  easy  economies,  by  its  ardent  anti-Gringo  patriotism. 

I  am  sorry  to  have  a  so  unfavorable  impression  of  these 
people.  Their  virtues  they  carefully  hide  from  the  for- 
eigner. Their  statesmen  may  have  real  interest  in  the 
welfare  of  their  country,  but  they  will  talk  to  you  only 
about  their  political  animosities.  Their  women,  on  close 
acquaintance,  may  be  lovable  in  the  extreme.  The  Amer- 
ican rarely  sees  them,  except  in  frowsy  attire  on  the  bal- 
conies of  their  unattractive  homes. 

It  is  hard  to  like  people  who  have  evidently  made  up 
their  mind  to  dislike  you. 


"THE  DARIEN"  is  a  vague  term  for  the  eastern  end  of  the 
Isthmus.  There  is  a  Gulf  of  Darien  on  the  Atlantic  side, 
and  a  Darien  Harbor  on  the  Pacific.  The  old  maps  give 
the  same  name  interchangeably  for  the  two  rivers  now 
called  the  Atrato  and  the  Tuyra.  It  is  a  territory  about 
which  very  little  is  known.  Part  of  it — nobody  knows  ex- 
actly how  much — is  occupied  by  the  San  Bias  Indians 

Once  a  month,  on  the  spring  tide,  the  National  Naviga- 
tion Company  of  Panama  send  one  of  their  boats  to  "The 
Darien."  It  is  a  five-day  cruise,  and  the  most  interesting 
side  trip  which  a  visitor  to  the  Isthmus  can  make. 

I  went  down  towards  the  end  of  the  dry  season,  on  the 
steamer  Veraguas.  It  was  late  afternoon  when  we  left  the 
busy  harbor  of  Panama.  The  lowering  sun  set  the  mother- 
of-pearl  on  the  Cathedral  towers  afire,  shone  a  blazing  red 
on  the  many  windows  of  the  Tivoli  Hotel  and  the  American 
town  on  Ancon  Hill.  We  passed  close  inshore  by  the  site 
of  Old  Panama,  the  ruined  tower  of  St.  Anastasius  outlined 
above  the  jungle  against  the  sunset,  and  then  out  across  the 
bay,  towards  Brava  Point.  The  water,  as  smooth  as  a 
ballroom  floor,  was  blue  past  description,  except  where  it 
caught  some  of  the  red  of  the  western  sky. 

After  an  amazingly  good  supper  for  so  small  a  craft,  the 
captain  spun  yarns  for  us  up  on  the  bridge.  He  had  good 
ones  to  spin.  He  had  started  out  on  the  service  of  the 
Royal  Mail,  after  long  years  of  waiting  had  received  a  ship, 
and  on  the  second  run  had  gone  ashore  on  an  uncharted 


"  TEE   DAEIEN  "  95 

bar  off  the  coast  of  Africa.  He  had  been  completely  exon- 
erated by  the  board  of  inquiry.  But  little  good  that  does  a 
captain.  The  iron  law  of  the  sea  says  that  once  a  skipper 
has  put  his  ship  ashore,  he  is  a  broken  man.  A  dozen 
investigating  committees  may  report  him  blameless,  may 
praise  his  bravery  and  cool-headed  ability — he  is  black- 
listed at  Lloyds.  No  company  which  insures  its  ships  can 
afford  to  employ  him.  So  our  captain  had  been  forced  out 
of  the  beaten  paths,  into  the  by-ways  of  the  sea.  During 
the  Russo-Japanese  War,  he  had  enlisted  in  the  Mikado's 
service.  After  peace  had  been  re-established,  he  had  drifted 
about  from  one  tramp  steamer  to  another,  at  last  to  get 
command  of  the  minute  Veraguas. 

So  slipping  along  through  the  motionless  sea,  our  mast 
barely  missing  the  immense  and  imminent  disk  of  the 
moon,  we  sat  half  the  night,  listening  to  bizarre  tales  of  the 
China  Sea,  the  Blockade  of  Vladivostok,  pearl  smuggling, 
Boxer  pirates  and  Dyak  head-hunters.  Even  Robert,  the 
Well-Beloved,  failed  to  get  from  his  magic  pen  an  adequate 
picture  of  the  glamor  and  romance  of  night  on  the  Southern 
Sea — so  what's  the  use? 

I  woke  up  to  find  that  we  were  rounding  Brava  Point  in 
the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel.  The  expanse  of  water  about  us 
was  the  first  of  the  Pacific  Ocean  seen  by  European  eyes 
from  America.  On  one  of  those  mountains — in  the  long  chain 
which  formed  the  horizon  on  the  left — Balboa,  near  four 
centuries  ago,  accomplished  fame,  when 

.     .     .     .     with  eagle  eyes 
He  stared  at  the  Pacific — and  all  his  men 
Look'd  at  each  other  with  a  wild  surmise — 
Silent,  upon  a  peak  in  Darien." 

Somewhere  along  that  white  sandy  beach  on  St.  Michael's 
Day  (September  29),  1513,  he  strode  into  the  water  to  his 
waist  and  flaunted  abroad  the  banner  of  Castile  and  Leon. 


Time  has  rotted  away  the  wooden  cross  they  erected,  to 
the  wonder  of  the  Indians.  The  tooth  of  Time  has  bitten 
deep  into  the  sovereignty  of  the  royal  house  of  Spain — 
which  was  growing  so  mightily  in  those  days.  Only  the 
name — "Golfo  de  San  Miguel" — which  he  gave  the  place 
has  remained.  Also  in  memory  of  his  great  discovery,  the 
name  of  Balboa  has  been  given  to  the  busy  port  thirty  miles 
up  the  coast,  the  terminus  of  the  great  canal  which  is  to  be — 
a  place  where  they  built  ships  which  would  as  much  have 
amazed  Balboa  as  his  musquettes  did  the  Indians. 

Somewhere  across  this  placid  bay,  Balboa  ventured  forth 
in  a  native  canoe — most  probably  the  Indian  cayukas  of 
to-day  are  no  bigger  than  those  the  first  Spaniards  found. 
Galvano,  an  old  chronicler,  writes  :  "  He  embarked  himself 
against  the  will  of  Chiapes,  who  was  lord  of  the  coast,  who 
wished  him  not  to  do  so,  because  it  was  dangerous  for  him. 
But  he,  desirous  to  have  it  known  that  he  had  been  upon 
these  seas,  went  forward,  and  came  back  again  in  safety 
and  with  great  content,  bringing  with  him  good  store  of 
gold,  silver,  and  pearls." 

The  view  is  beautiful  and  I  also  returned  "  with  great 
content/'  although  not  with  so  rich  spoils. 

Within  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel,  the  water  loses  its  glori- 
ous blueness.  Three  mighty  rivers,  running  through  allu- 
vial valleys,  have  turned  it  into  a  Missouri  brown. 

From  Brava  Point  it  is  fifteen  miles  across  the  mouth  of 
the  Gulf.  Inside  it  broadens  out  to  twice  that  width.  The 
shores  are  irregular  and  there  are  several  islands.  The 
channel  up  the  Gulf  is  twenty  miles  long.  The  banks  are 
generally  precipitous,  getting  higher  as  one  gets  inland. 
There  are  few  signs  of  human  habitation.  Here  and  there 
a  break  in  the  dense  foliage  of  the  hillsides  showed  where 
some  natives  had  made  a  clearing.  We  passed  close  to  one 
island,  but  we  saw  no  Indians. 

•«  THE   DARIEN  "  97 

Beyond  the  Gulf  is  the  great  Darien  Harbor.  A  large 
island,  blocking  the  entrance,  separates  the  two  channels, 
the  Boca  Chica  from  the  Boca  Grande.  When  our  battle- 
ships visited  the  harbor,  on  their  trip  around  the  world, 
they  used  the  Boco  Grande.  This  channel  is  not  only  the 
deeper,  but  also  the  longer.  The  native  boats  all  use  the 
Boco  Chico.  The  banks  at  the  head  of  the  Gulf  are  hidden 
by  mangrove  swamps.  The  entrance  to  this  narrow  pas- 
sage is  invisible  to  uninitiated  eyes.  When  our  captain 
threw  the  head  of  the  boat  around,  I  thought  he  had  a 
brain-storm  and  was  running  us  aground.  A  few  yards 
from  the  shore,  the  opening  suddenly  appears.  The  channel 
is  about  three  hundred  feet  wide  and  not  a  quarter  of  a  mile 
long.  Once  headed  into  it,  we  shot  through  on  the  tide  at 
incredible  speed. 

Before  I  realized  that  we  had  entered  the  passage,  we 
were  slowing  down  in  the  placid  water  of  the  harbor. 

The  spring  tide  rises  nearly  twenty  feet.  Darien  Harbor 
is  thirty  miles  long,  and  averages  ten  in  width.  A  tremen- 
dous amount  of  water — considerably  more  than  a  cubic  mile 
of  it — has  to  rush  through  those  two  narrow  mouths  every 
six  hours.  I  doubt  if  the  famous  tides  of  the  Bay  of  Fundy 
run  any  stronger. 

William  Dampier,  who,  besides  being  a  pirate  of  parts, 
was  a  keen  observer  of  geography,  has  left  this  account  of  the 
place  as  he  found  it  two  centuries  ago: 

"The  Gulf  of  St.  Michael  ...  is  a  place,  where 
many  great  rivers  having  finished  their  course,  are  swal- 
lowed up  in  the  sea.  ...  On  either  side  the  Gulf 
runs  in  towards  the  land  somewhat  narrower,  and  makes 
five  or  six  small  islands,  and  good  channels  between  the 
islands;  beyond  which,  further  in  still,  the  shore  on  each 
side  closes  so  near  with  two  points  of  low  mangrove  land  as 
to  make  a  narrow  or  strait,  scarce  half  a  mile  wide.  This 


serves  as  a  mouth  or  entrance  to  the  inner  part  of  the 
Gulf,  which  is  a  deep  bay,  two  or  three  leagues  on  every  way; 
and  about  the  east  end  thereof  are  the  mouths  of  several 
rivers,  the  chief  of  which  is  that  of  Santa  Maria;  this  is 
the  way  that  the  privateers  have  generally  taken  as  the 
nearest  between  the  North  and  South  Seas.  The  river  of 
Santa  Maria  is  the  largest  of  all  the  rivers  of  this  gulf;  it  is 
navigable  eight  or  nine  leagues  up,  for  so  high  the  tide 
flows.  Beyond  that  place  the  river  is  divided  into  many 
branches,  and  is  only  fit  for  canoes;  the  tide  rises  and  falls 
in  this  river  about  eighteen  feet." 

Around  a  corner  of  headland,  just  after  entering  the 
harbor,  our  boat  stopped  at  the  picturesque  little  town  of 
La  Palma.  It  is  built  on  a  very  steep  hillside.  The  houses 
on  the  water  front  are  perched  on  twenty-foot  piles — almost 
awash  when  the  tide  is  in  and  high,  and  dry  when  it  falls. 

I  counted  about  two  hundred  roofs,  of  which  ten  or  fif- 
teen were  of  corrugated  iron — a  sign  and  criterion  of  prog- 
ress. El  Real  de  Santa  Maria,  a  town  which  we  visited  later, 
has  less  than  half  of  its  roofs  of  the  old-fashioned  thatch. 
The  Alcalde  boasted  to  me  about  it.  I  suppose  corrugated 
iron  roofs  are  a  sign  of  progress  in  Panama,  just  as  tunnels 
are  in  New  York,  but  I  prefer  thatch  and  ferries. 

In  La  Palma  happened  to  me  an  amazing  adventure. 
I  cheated  a  native!  In  any  place  of  Spanish  civilization, 
this  is  something  to  boast  of.  It  works  the  other  way 
around  with  such  sickening  regularity. 

My  friend  and  I  went  ashore  in  one  of  the  native  cayukas 
— a  ride  of  not  more  than  two  minutes.  When  we  stepped 
ashore  the  boatman  calmly  demanded  one  peso  apiece.  As 
a  general  rule,  I  think  that  in  a  strange  country,  where  you 
do  not  know  the  language  very  well,  it  is  wise  to  allow  your- 
self to  be  robbed  without  making  an  uproar.  Otherwise 
you  lose  your  breath  as  well  as  your  money.  But  there  are 

"  THE   DAEIEN  "  99 

limits,  and  this  seemed  to  be  one  of  them.  So  individually 
and  collectively,  we  yelled  all  the  mean  things  we  knew  in 
Spanish  at  that  cayuka  man.  He  disappeared  on  a  run. 

"Gone  for  the  Alcalde  and  the  police,"  my  friend  re- 

"Well,  let's  get  a  look  at  the  town  before  they  lock  us 
up,"  I  said. 

We  strolled  around  for  half  an  hour,  expecting  trouble 
every  minute.  When  there  was  no  more  to  be  seen,  we 
went  down  to  the  shore,  and  another  cayuka  man  offered 
to  take  us  both  out  for  four  reals.  So  back  we  went  to  the 
boat,  without  having  paid  any  fare  for  the  ride  ashore. 

'I  think  the  first  boatman  must  have  had  a  stroke.  We 
expected  to  see  him  waiting  for  us  with  a  warrant  when  we 
put  in  at  La  Palnia  on  the  return  trip.  For  a  month  after- 
wards I  expected  to  have  him  turn  up  in  Panama.  But  I 
never  saw  him  again.  He  is  the  only  Panamanian  who  ever 
let  me  get  by  him  without  paying. 

The  cruise  up  the  harbor  was  delightful.  The  hills  come 
down  sheer  to  the  water's  edge,  their  sides  thick  with  heavy 
timber.  Three  different  species  of  lignum  vitce — each  with 
its  own  color — were  in  bloom.  Blossoming  hybiscus,  like 
Fourth  of  July  red-fire,  was  everywhere.  And  most  gor- 
geous of  all  were  the  Royal  Poincianas  or  Peacock  flowers. 
A  few  islands,  also  bright  with  blossoms,  broke  the  expanse 
of  water  in  just  those  places  which  would  have  been  chosen 
by  a  Japanese  landscape  gardener. 

Perched  on  one  promontory  is  the  large  country  place  of 
a  Panama  merchant.  It  looks  desolately  alone.  The  shores 
of  such  a  body  of  water  in  a  less  torrid  clime  would  be 
crowded  with  summer  houses. 

A  few  hours  beyond  La  Palma,  we  passed  the  mouth  of 
the  Rio  Las  Savanahs.  It  looks  as  broad  as  the  Mississippi 
and  very  much  more  sluggish.  The  entrance  to  the  river  is 

100  PANAMA 

almost  choked  with  water  lilies,  only  a  narrow  channel  is 
left  free.  For  a  mile  on  either  side  of  it,  the  green  pads  of 
the  leaves — which  are  not  very  large,  but  innumerable — 
entirely  hide  the  water.  There  were  thousands  and  thou- 
sands of  small  white  and  golden  blossoms.  The  air  was 
heavy  with  their  fragrance. 

Beyond  this  river  the  harbor  begins  to  narrow  rapidly. 
About  four  in  the  afternoon,  we  anchored  for  half  an  hour 
off  the  little  village  of  Chepigana.  Of  its  fifty  houses  only 
the  barn-like  trading  station  had  a  corrugated  iron  roof. 
This  little  place  and  La  Palma  are  the  only  towns  on  all  the 
coast  of  this  great  bay. 

Twilight  was  just  beginning  when  we  reached  the  head  of 
the  harbor  and  the  mouth  of  the  Tuyra  River — in  Dampier's 
day  the  Spaniards  called  it  the  Rio  del  Santa  Maria  del 
Darien.  We  steamed  up  it  as  far  as  we  could  before  night- 

Here  we  began  to  meet  cayukas  loaded  with  Cholo  In- 
dians. They  are  of  the  same  squat,  square-faced  breed  as 
those  to  be  seen  in  the  western  provinces.  But  they  seem 
much  less  touched  by  civilization.  The  men  seldom  wore 
more  than  a  breech-cloth.  The  prevailing  mode  among  the 
women  was  a  short  skirt,  hardly  more  than  a  fringe.  In 
fact,  the  children,  who  wore  nothing  at  all,  wore  very  little 
less  than  their  elders. 

Our  boat  followed  a  tortuous  course,  now  close  to  one 
shore,  now  to  the  other.  And  ever  as  we  proceeded,  we 
were  disturbing  the  innumerable  birds  who  were  set- 
tling down  for  the  night.  The  aigrette  herons  were  a  sight 
worth  all  the  long  journey.  There  were  hundreds  of  them, 
and  they  are  the  whitest  things  which  live.  None  of  the 
other  animals  which  we  call  "white" — polar  bears,  white 
elephants,  silver  foxes — are  really  white.  But  these  herons 
are  as  dazzlingly  white  as  the  crest  of  Mont  Blanc  at  noon. 

Photo  f>y  1'ishbaitgh. 


Photo  by  Fishbauzh. 


"  THE   DAEIEN  "  101 

In  zoological  gardens,  herons  and  flamingoes  and  all  that 
genera  of  birds  seem  awkward  and  unlovely.  They  need 
their  native  setting.  These  tropical  rivers  are  their  real 
home.  As  our  steamer  fumed  up  the  river,  it  disturbed  them 
mightily.  As  far  as  I  could  see  ahead  of  us,  was  a  string  of 
them  on  either  side,  flying  sleepily  up  stream  to  escape  us. 
There  is  an  unspeakable  beauty  in  the  moth-like  way  they 
flap  their  ghostly  wings,  outlined  so  strikingly  against  the 
dead  green  of  the  river  banks.  When  it  became  too  dark 
for  navigation,  we  dropped  anchor  and  let  them  sleep. 

It  was  too  hot  to  sleep  in  the  cabin,  so  we  swung  our 
hammocks  on  deck.  I  find  going  to  sleep  in  a  hammock 
an  easy  habit  to  acquire.  But  how  to  wake  up  with  any 
degree  of  grace  or  dignity  is  an  art  which  requires  long 

I  have  a  vague  recollection  of  opening  one  eye  and  realiz- 
ing with  profound  satisfaction  that  there  was  yet  at  least 
an  hour  before  dawn.  The  next  thing  I  knew  was  a  fusillade 
from  the  after  deck.  It  was  not  just  one  shot — it  sounded 
like  platoon  firing.  I  woke  with  a  start  and  tried  to  jump 
out  of  bed,  but  I  was  in  a  hammock,  and  could  not.  There 
was  nothing  to  set  foot  on.  I  kicked  out  wildly,  expecting 
to  strike  the  floor.  I  only  barked  my  shins  on  a  stanchion. 
At  this  stage  of  the  affair,  a  field  gun  came  to  the  support 
of  the  rifle  brigade,  and  the  string  which  held  up  the  mos- 
quito netting  broke  and  I  tumbled  four  feet  onto  the  deck. 
It  was  probably  fifteen  minutes  before  I  got  myself  untan- 
gled and  reached  the  after  deck. 

Every  man  on  board  with  a  firearm  was  pumping  lead 
into  the  mud  flats  left  bare  by  the  receding  tide.  Rifles, 
revolvers,  automatic  pistols!  The  captain  had  an  English 
elephant  gun,  which  I  had  mistaken  for  a  field-piece.  I 
followed  the  line  of  his  aim,  and  could  see  nothing  until 
he  fired — then  a  great  red  chasm  opened  in  the  mud.  It 

102  PANAMA 

was  the  mouth  of  an  alligator.  I  have  never  seen  anyj 
thing  in  nature  which  has  carried  "protective  imitation" 
as  far  as  these  saurians.  Half  a  dozen  men  were  standing 
about  me,  shooting  right  and  left,  and  I  could  see  nothing 
but  mud.  It  was  several  minutes  before  my  eyes  caught  the 
trick  of  seeing  them.  Then  I  ran  for  my  gun  and  joined  in 
the  slaughter. 

From  the  ordinary  point  of  view  there  is  no  sport  in  shoot- 
ing alligators.  They  lie  quiet — a  too  easy  mark — and  unless 
the  bullet  penetrates  the  brain,  it  is  impossible  to  get  them. 
They  waddle  down  to  the  water  and  slip  in.  A  day  or  two 
later  their  dead  bodies  come  up  somewhere  down  stream. 

There  is,  however,  a  great  temptation  to  find  out  whether 
it  really  is  an  alligator  or  just  a  hunk  of  mud  on  the  bank 
or  a  dead  log  floating  down  stream.  The  only  way  to  make 
sure  is  to  shoot.  It  is  a  good  betting  game,  for  even  the 
Indians  will  sometimes  be  fooled. 

As  soon  as  the  tide  began  to  come  in,  we  lifted  anchor 
and  continued  up  stream.  There  is  a  never  flagging  fas- 
cination to  river  navigation.  At  sea,  if  it  is  rough,  it  is 
uncomfortable,  and  if  it  is  smooth,  it  is  monotonous.  Here 
every  turn  brought  a  new  vista.  Sometimes  the  jungle 
trees  scraped  the  upper  works  of  the  boat.  There  was  al- 
ways the  chance  of  seeing  a  monkey  or  a  paroquet  or  a 
cayuka  full  of  Indians. 

About  noon  we  dropped  anchor  in  the  channel  off  El 
Real  del  Santa  Maria.  It  was  in  this  progressive  little 
town  that  the  Alcalde  proudly  pointed  out  the  two  score 
corrugated  iron  roofs.  There  was  also  a  two-story  munici- 
pal building  to  boast  of  and  a  new  billiard  table. 

Here  we  unloaded  three  Chinamen  who  were  going  on  a 
trading  expedition  up  the  Chucunaque  River,  which  joins 
the  Tuyra  just  below  El  Real.  They  caused  great  excite- 
ment, for,  in  trying  to  keep  down  their  expenses,  they  put 

"  THE   DARIEN  "  103 

all  their  worldly  goods  into  one  cayuka.  I  think  another 
half  pound  would  have  sent  it  to  the  bottom.  Once  they 
had  cast  off  from  the  Veraguas  and  saw  how  precarious  was 
their  position,  the  three  of  them  began  to  chant  their  funeral 
dirge.  All  the  good  people  of  El  Real,  attracted  by  the  un- 
earthly noise,  rushed  out  to  the  river  bank.  One  of  the 
passengers  bet  me  a  peso  that  they  would  sink.  It  did 
not  look  like  a  good  bet  to  me,  but  I  had  stuck  him  every 
time  on  the  alligator  game,  so  took  him  on.  By  the  very 
narrowest  margin,  the  Celestials  reached  the  shore  in 
safety.  When  the  passenger  paid  me  the  peso,  he  wanted 
to  bet  me  that  he  would  die  inside  of  a  year. 

"You've  got  such  a  luck,  you  can't  lose,"  he  said.  "I'd 
feel  better  than  if  my  life  was  insured." 

Two  twists  of  the  river,  above  El  Real,  we  ran  into  a  mud 
bank.  There  was  nothing  to  do  but  twirl  our  thumbs  for 
six  hours  till  a  new  tide  lifted  us  off. 

The  geological  formation  of  this  district  is  very  inter- 
esting. In  some  prehistoric  time,  it  was  a  country  of  high 
mountains  and  deep,  precipitous  valleys.  Then  in  some 
great  convulsion,  it  all  sank  so  that  the  original  bed  of  the 
valleys  was  several  hundred  feet  below  sea  level.  The 
rivers  have  washed  down  an  alluvial  deposit  and  filled  up 
the  old  valleys. 

Fifty  miles  up,  the  Tuyra  is  still  at  sea  level.  Marri- 
ganti,  the  head  of  navigation,  has  a  tide  of  eight  or  ten  feet. 
On  either  side  of  the  river  are  broad  mud  flats,  heavily 
overgrown  with  jungle.  The  surface  is  not  five  feet  above 
high  tide  in  the  dry  season,  and  it  is  continually  drowned 
in  the  wet.  If  some  system  of  Holland  dykes  could  be  in- 
stalled and  these  bottomlands  kept  dry,  they  would  be 
immensely  fertile. 

While  we  were  stuck  on  that  mud  bank,  fighting  mosqui- 
toes, an  incident  illustrative  of  the  all-pervasiveness  of 

104  PANAMA 

progress  occurred.  One  of  the  deck-hands,  who  looked  like 
an  Italian,  was  enlivening  his  job  of  stitching  a  patch  on  a 
pair  of  overalls,  by  singing  the  Duke's  song  from  "Rigo- 
letto."  And  he  sang  it  well.  He  had  a  rich  baritone.  His 
voice  had  evidently  not  been  trained,  but  he  sang  true. 
Sitting  there  on  a  dry-goods  case,  beating  time  against  it 
with  his  bare  heels,  he  threw  into  his  singing  a  large  measure 
of  the  nonchalance,  the  very  spirit  of  the  song,  which  so 
often  is  lacking  in  the  performance  of  professionals. 

"Now,  listen  to  that,"  the  captain  said.  "That's  the 
real  Latin  for  you.  Music  born  in  him.  I  don't  suppose 
he  can  read  or  write.  But  once  when  he  was  a  little  shaver, 
back  in  Italy,  his  father  took  him  to  the  opera  in  Naples, 
and  he  heard  some  great  artist  sing  that.  And  he  remem- 
bers it  still.  Sings  it  down  here  in  the  jungle,  without  any 
accompaniment  but  his  heels,  a  lot  better  than  an  English 
or  American  university  man  could  sing  it  with  an  orches- 

"Let's  get  him  to  tell  us  about  it,"  I  suggested. 

The  captain  called  him  up  and  asked  him  where  he  was 

"New  York,"  he  said. 

"Mulberry  Street?"  I  asked. 


"Where  did  you  learn  that  song?" 

"Oh!  That?  That's  a  Caruso  song.  I  learned  it  out  of 
a  phonograph." 

"If  I  hear  you  singing  that  again,  I'll  kick  you  over- 
board!" the  captain  said,  in  disgust.  But  I  was  so  delighted 
at  the  skipper's  discomfort  that  I  gave  the  boy  the  peso  I 
had  won  on  the  Chinamen. 

Marriganti,  where  we  arrived  a  couple  of  hours  after  the 
tide  lifted  us  over  the  bar,  is  the  station  of  the  Darien  Gold 
Mining  Company.  Our  cargo  was  principally  machinery 

"  THE   DABIEN  "  105 

for  their  new  plant.  It  was  to  be  taken  up  stream  in  small 
boats  and  then,  by  miniature  railroad,  to  the  mine  site. 

We  also  had  a  large  consignment  of  goods  for  up-river 
traders,  cases  of  nails,  boxes  of  starch  and  sugar,  bags  of 
coffee  and  salt,  bolts  of  cloth.  Every  civilized  country  in 
the  world  was  represented  in  that  merchandise.  Some  of  the 
people  up  river  are  Germans,  for  we  unloaded  several  cases 
of  Augustiner  Brau  from  Munich. 

Here  at  Marriganti  we  met  the  first  white  man  since  leav- 
ing Panama.  He  was  an  Italian,  in  charge  of  the  mining 
company's  station.  We  had  letters  of  introduction  to  him, 
and  he  started  in  to  perform  the  rites  of  hospitality  by  mix- 
ing what  he  called  a  "  Nitroglycerine  cocktail."  He  said  it 
was  so  strong  that  if  you  dropped  a  cigarette  ash  into  it,  it 
would  blow  the  roof  off.  When  he  found  out  that  we  did 
not  care  to  get  drunk  with  him,  he  lost  all  interest  in  us, 
and  went  surlily  about  the  business  of  unloading  his  consign- 
ment of  machinery.  I  once  met  a  Belgian  judge  from  the 
Congo  Free  State,  who  said  the  only  objection  he  had  to  his 
post  was  that  there  was  no  opportunity  to  get  drunk  with  a 
white  man.  This  Italian  of  Marriganti  is  in  the  same  fix. 
For  the  population  of  El  Real  and  La  Palma  seems  to  be 
pure  Nubian.  They  are  descendants  of  the  colonial  slaves. 
A  few  West  Indian  negroes  have  drifted  into  the  district. 
They  are  mostly  men  who  were  stranded  on  the  Isthmus 
when  the  French  canal  company  failed.  They  are  indis- 
tinguishable from  the  natives — except  when  they  startle 
you  by  speaking  English. 

The  trip  down  stream  was  uneventful.  At  La  Palma 
we  picked  up  a  cargo  of  lumber  and  the  Bishop  of  Panama 
and  his  retinue.  He  was  a  picturesque  type  in  his  frayed 
and  faded  purple.  His  face  was  round  and  wrinkled  and 
amiable.  In  his  youth  he  had  been  a  scholar  and  had  trav- 
elled widely.  He  seemed  pleased  to  talk  to  a  foreigner. 

106  PANAMA 

He  was  curious  to  know  if  the  "modernism"  heresy  was 
making  headway  in  America.  I  asked  him  if  it  was  troub- 
ling Panama,  and  he  said:  "Alas,  no!  My  clergy  are  too 
ignorant.  They  have  not  heard  of  it."  But  his  English 
was  decidedly  rusty,  and  I  think  he  got  his  "Alas"  in  the 
wrong  place. 

We  slipped  through  the  Boca  Chica  with  the  last  of  the 
tide  and  the  last  of  the  sun.  All  the  way  down  the  Gulf 
of  San  Miguel,  we  had  to  fight  for  every  inch  against  the 
rush  of  the  flow. 

As  soon  as  night  fell,  we  were  treated  to  a  gorgeous  dis- 
play of  phosphorescence.  It  is  a  different  species  of  ani- 
malcule which  sets  the  sea  ablaze  in  these  waters  from 
what  one  sees  at  Nassau  and  Bermuda.  Instead  of  sparkles 
in  the  water,  there  is  an  undifferentiated  glow.  Their  light 
is  a  soft  electric  blue,  like  what  one  sees  when  the  sun  shines 
through  a  mass  of  ice. 

The  minute  little  creatures  only  turn  on  their  light  when 
disturbed.  Probably  only  a  very  small  proportion  of  them 
ever  do  light  up.  Ships  pass  through  these  waters  rarely, 
and  their  only  other  cause  of  fear  are  the  rapacious  fish. 
Often  far  out  from  the  ship,  the  black  water  would  blaze 
out  with  a  streak  of  light  where  the  fin  of  some  marauder 
cut  the  surface. 

Their  glow  is  a  symptom  of  distress.  But  I  think  that 
if  I  were  one  of  them,  I  would  pray  to  be  frightened  at  least 
once  in  my  life.  With  such  potentiality  of  glory,  it  would 
be  dismal  indeed  to  die  without  having  ever  blazed  forth. 

The  friend  who  was  with  me  is  a  rich  man.  I  am  never 
quite  at  ease  when  I  think  of  next  month's  rent.  The  glow 
of  these  marine  fireflies  lit  up  his  face  as  he  leaned  over  the 
rail  beside  me.  When  he  spoke,  I  understood  why  his  bank 
account  was  more  substantial  than  mine.  While  I  had  been 
foolishly  trying  to  humanize  these  brilliant  infusoria,  wast- 

"  THE   DAEIEN  "  107 

ing  time  in  imagining  for  them  a  soul  tragedy,  his  mind  had 
been  bent  to  practical  things. 

"If  I  knew  how  to  do  what  those  bugs  are  doing,"  he  said, 
"I'd  make  a  fortune.  They  are  generating  light  without 
heat.  A  real  phosphorescent  lamp — a  good  light  without 
heat — is  worth  a  million — easy." 

It  was  still  deep  night  when  we  anchored  off  San  Miguel, 
the  principal  village  of  the  largest  of  the  Pearl  Islands. 
A  pinace  went  ashore  with  the  monthly  bag  of  mail,  but  there 
was  no  chance  to  land.  The  dawn — when  the  sun  came  up 
out  of  the  sea — among  the  islands  was  glorious  beyond  for- 
getting. It  was  noon  before  we  passed  the  last  of  the 
islands.  Browning  speaks  of  "the  sprinkled  isles,  lily  on 
lily,  that  o'erlace  the  sea  and  laugh  their  pride  when  the 
light  waves  lisp  'Greece'."  If  lilies  are  the  flowers  which 
picture  the  Greek  isles,  one  would  have  to  work  cocoanut 
palms  into  the  figure  to  conjure  up  these  Pearl  Islands. 
They  stick  in  the  mind  as  the  symbol  of  the  tropics,  all  the 
world  around.  They  are  at  their  most  unforgettable  best 
when  mingled  with  a  sea  scene.  There  are  hundreds  of 
big  and  little  islands  in  this  group — each  with  its  own  dis- 
tinctive bunch  of  cocoa-palms,  waving  against  the  horizon. 

The  beauty  of  the  Royal  Palm  is  architectural ;  they  are 
attractive  only  when  arranged  in  geometrical' design — living 
Doric  columns  of  a  formal  peristyle.  The  charm  of  the 
cocoanut  palm  is  unconventional,  personal.  But,  as  I  said 
before,  even  Stevenson  could  not  get  the  grace  of  the  south- 
ern seas  down  on  paper. 

As  the  islands  dropped  astern,  Panama  called  our  atten- 
tion over  the  bow.  It  is  a  beautiful  city  from  the  sea — 
beautiful  still  in  spite  of  the  scar  made  by  the  American 
quarry  on  Ancon  Hill  and  the  smudge  of  smoke  from  the 
machine  shops  and  shipping  of  Balboa. 



IT  was  the  quest  for  gold  which  brought  the  first  white 
man  to  the  Isthmus  of  Panama.  The  same  "execrable  sed 
d'oro" — as  the  brave  old  missionary,  Fray  Bartholome"  Las 
Casas,  called  it — was  the  motor  power  of  Balboa  and  Piz- 
arro.  Gold  built  old  Panama  City.  Gold  was  the  bait 
which  drew  the  buccaneers.  And  again  it  was  the  thirst 
for  gold — Californian  gold — which  woke  the  Isthmus  from  its 
forgotten  sleep  in  '49  and  made  it  once  more  the  World's 
great  Short  Cut. 

In  1911  there  is  but  one  gold  mine  in  profitable  operation 
in  the  Republic — the  Darien  Gold  Mining  Company  at 
Cana,  close  to  the  Colombian  border. 

But  the  "  sed  d'oro  "  is  still  a  motor  power  on  the  Isthmus. 
Any  day  you  can  find  some  more  or  less  sane  looking  indi- 
vidual— in  the  barroom  of  the  "Metropole"  or  the  "Pana- 
zone" — who  has  a  gold  project  to  share  with  you. 

There  is  a  man  who  in  some  indefinite  way  discovered 
in  the  moldy  archives  of  Madrid  a  letter  from  a  monk  of 
Old  Panama  which  tells  where  the  rich  treasures  of  the 
Monastery  of  San  Francisco  were  buried  at  the  time  of 
Morgan's  raid.  The  list  of  jewels  and  plate  reads  like  an 
inventory  of  the  Cave  of  the  Forty  Thieves.  Only  a  few 
thousand  dollars  is  needed  to  discover  the  hiding  place. 

A  large  outfit  is  now  at  work  in  the  Province  of  Chiriqui 
trying  to  relocate  the  old  "Tisangel"  mine.  The  bullion 
records  of  the  Spanish  archives  show  that  this  was  one  of 
the  richest  mines  they  discovered  in  the  Americas.  The 


THE    THIEST   FOR    GOLD  109 

methods  of  the  Conquistadores  were  very  crude  and  a  modern 
engineer  could  make  large  profits  working  over  their  waste. 
This  outfit  has  plenty  of  money  and  intend  to  find  the  old 
vein  if  it  takes  a  decade.  They  are  running  five-foot  con- 
tour lines  over  a  large  area — which  means  in  surveyor's 
jargon  that  they  are  using  a  fine-tooth  comb. 

Then  there  is  an  endless  stream  of  prospectors,  men  of 
every  nationality  and  color,  men  who  have  followed  the 
scent  from  Australia  to  Alaska.  They  come  out  of  the 
jungle  sallow  with  fever,  gaunt  from  hunger,  with  a  sack 
of  "dust"  or  a  sample  of  quartz.  All  they  need  is  a  little 
capital  to  open  an  El  Dorado.  They  are  more  than  anxious 
to  share  their  enterprise  with  you. 

That  gold  is  widely  distributed  on  the  Isthmus  is  beyond 
dispute.  Columbus  found  the  natives  wearing  gold  orna- 
ments. The  early  Spaniards  stole  immense  quantities  of  it. 
And  when  this  bonanza  gave  out  they  began  digging  them- 
selves. The  archives  are  explicit  on  this  subject.  Even 
more  conclusive  are  the  reports  of  many  reliable  experts. 
Placer  gold  has  been  located  in  hundreds  of  places;  veins  of 
quartz  have  been  charted  which  assay  as  high  as  twenty  dol- 
lars a  ton. 

But  only  the  Darien  Company  pay  regular  dividends. 

The  labor  costs  are  prohibitive.  The  natives  will  not 
work  steadily.  The  Spaniards  got  around  this  difficulty  by 
the  simple  expedient  of  slavery.  But  this  method  has  gone 
out  of  fashion.  Imported  labor  crumples  up  before  the 
manifold  fevers  of  the  jungle.  It  is  impossible,  in  the 
absence  of  roads  and  bridges,  to  install  machinery  or  pro- 
vision a  large  camp  ten  miles  from  navigable  water.  The 
Darien  Company  is  in  an  unusually  salubrious  region  and 
within  striking  distance  of  the  great  Tuyra  River.  It  is  the 
proverbial  exception.  Yet  the  thirst  for  gold  is  unslackable. 
And  a  new  company  is  launched  every  few  weeks. 

110  PANAMA 

The  present  status  of  mining  on  the  Isthmus  was  care- 
fully explained  to  me  by  a  Mr.  Moody,  a  man  heavily  inter- 
ested in  fruit-growing.  Long  residence  in  Central  America 
has  given  him  an  intimate  knowledge  of  conditions. 

"Not  for  mine,"  he  said.  "I  suppose  I've  turned  down 
a  couple  of  million  mining  propositions." 

"Have  none  of  them  panned  out?"  I  asked. 

"One.  I  might  have  got  into  a  Honduras  mine  which  is 
paying.  But  I'm  a  business  man — not  a  gambler.  If  I  was 
a  gambler  I'd  hit  the  roulette  wheel,  where  the  chances  are 
only  32  to  1  against  you." 

About  a  week  later  I  met  Moody  in  the  Cathedral  Plaza. 

"Well,"  he  said  with  a  sheepish  grin,  "I've  just  bought  a 
gold  mine." 

A  negro,  named  Pedro,  who  had  once  worked  for  him, 
had  come  that  morning  to  his  office  with  a  bag  full  of  sam- 
ples— black  sand  and  quartz.  He  had  staked  out  a  claim 
on  the  head  waters  of  the  Rio  Obre*  on  the  Atlantic  slope. 
He  had  made  a  preliminary  denouncement  and  had  come 
to  Moody  to  borrow  money  to  pay  the  fee  necessary  to  gain 
permanent  possession.  The  samples,  when  submitted  to  a 
mining  engineer  named  Duncan,  had  assayed  very  high. 
The  two  white  men  had  advanced  the  necessary  money  for  a 
controlling  interest  in  the  enterprise.  Duncan  was  going  up 
in  a  few  days  to  look  over  the  claim. 

It  was  part  of  the  country  very  rarely  visited  by  foreigners 
so  I  went  along. 

"Roughing  it"  would  be  an  insultingly  inadequate  term 
for  that  expedition. 

As  it  was  just  before  Easter  our  little  boat  was  vastly 
overcrowded.  There  were  twenty  bunks  aboard  and  thirty 
women  and  as  many  men.  The  berths  were  allotted  to  the 
women  in  the  order  of  their  social  standing,  an  easy  matter 
to  determine  in  Panama,  for  the  ladies  use  perfume  instead 

Copyright  by  Underwood  &•  Underwood. 


THE    THIEST   FOR    GOLD  111 

of  soap.  The  Upper  Ten  use  attar  of  roses.  The  Four 
Hundred  take  to  heliotrope  from  the  world  famous  atelier 
of  M.  Rouget.  It  costs  in  Panama  five  pesos  for  a  very 
small  bottle.  And  so  on  down  the  social  ladder  to  the  hoi 
polloi  who  use  a  greenish-yellow  smell  at  one  peso  the  gallon. 
The  extra  ten  women  and  all  the  men  were  stowed  away  in 

To  add  to  the  discomfort  we  had  no  sooner  passed  beyond 
the  shelter  of  the  Taboga  Islands  when  we  ran  into  one  of 
the  very  rare  storms  which  visit  those  parts. 

I  have  crossed  the  Black  Sea  in  a  Russian  boat  over- 
loaded with  Moslem  pilgrims  for  Mecca.  I  have  crossed 
from  Tangier  to  Gibraltar  in  the  dinky  little  Djibel  Dersa 
with  a  gale  blowing  out  of  the  west.  The  waves  rising  higher 
and  higher  all  the  way  across  the  Atlantic  get  frightfully 
mussed  up  when  they  enter  the  funnel  of  Trafalgar  Bay  and 
the  Straits.  And  I  have  seen  the  bottom  nearly  blown  out 
of  the  barometer  off  Cape  Hatteras.  I  thought  I  knew  what 
it  was  to  be  tossed  about.  But  I  did  not. 

Our  little  coastwise  steamer  was  built  to  cross  the  bars 
which  form  at  the  mouths  of  tropical  rivers,  and  if  she  was 
loaded  with  lead  to  her  funnel  she  would  not  draw  eight 
feet.  In  the  morning  my  knees  and  elbows  were  black  and 
blue  where  the  rolling  of  the  ship  had  swung  my  hammock 
into  the  ceiling. 

A  little  after  sun-up  we  swung  into  the  placid,  sluggish 
Rio  Grande  and  an  hour  and  a  half  up  stream  we  came  to  a 
pier  and  a  corrugated  iron  storehouse  called  Puerto  Passado. 
The  steamer  can  only  get  up  on  the  crest  of  the  tide,  and  for 
six  hours  it  rests  its  flat  bottom  on  the  mud,  waiting  the 
next  tide  to  go  out. 

We  found  Pedro  on  the  dock  waiting  for  us  with  three 
of  the  sorriest  looking  horses  it  has  ever  been  my  misfor- 
tune to  encounter.  But  even  these  sick,  mangy,  ulcerated 

112  PANAMA 

brutes  were  welcome.  For  the  water  was  falling  rapidly 
and  a  tropical  river  with  the  tide  out  is  the  most  desolate 
spectacle  on  earth.  There  is  a  revolting  lewdness  in  the 
naked  slimy  roots  of  the  mangrove  swamp  on  either  side. 
The  bottomless  mud  of  the  river  bed  is  like  a  nightmare 
from  Dore's  "  Inferno."  Here  and  there  a  hump  of  muddier 
looking  mud  moves  sluggishly — it  takes  a  decided  effort  of 
the  will  to  believe  that  it  really  is  an  alligator.  It  would 
be  much  easier  not  to  believe  that  such  things  live — in  such 
a  place. 

Penonome*,  the  capital  of  the  Province  of  Code,  is  only 
thirteen  miles  inland  from  Puerto  Passado,  but  with  Pedro's 
horses  it  took  us  three  hours. 

It  is  a  typical  Central  America  town — a  plaza  and  church 
and  barn-like  government  building  in  the  center,  a  circle 
of  whitewashed,  red-tiled  adobe*  houses,  and  on  the  edge 
an  irregular  cluster  of  native  "ranches,"  built  of  cane  and 
thatch.  It  is  impossible  to  say  where  the  town  ends  and  the 
jungle  begins. 

We  had  intended  to  lay  in  our  provisions  here,  but  Pedro 
told  us  it  would  be  unnecessary.  While  prospecting  on  his 
claim  he  had  taken  to  his  bosom  a  widow  and  her  farm. 
We  would  stop  the  first  night  with  a  family  of  his  friends, 
and  the  next  be  at  his  place,  where  the  fatted  calf  would  be 
waiting  us  already  dressed  in  pepper-sauce.  So  all  we  did  was 
to  secure  some  real  horses  and  buy  some  salt — a  present  much 
prized  by  the  CHolo  Indians — some  cans  of  butter  and  jam. 

A  friend  of  Pedro  brought  us  some  news  which  promised 
excitement.  While  he  had  been  in  Panama  his  claim  had 
been  "jumped."  Three  Americans,  with  a  Mexican  woman 
who  passed  as  their  cook,  had  drifted  into  Penonome*  a  few 
days  after  Pedro's  departure.  They  heard  of  his  strike, 
bribed  the  Alcalde  and  denounced  the  same  claim.  Then 
they  went  out  to  look  it  over. 

THE    THIBST   FOB    GOLD  113 

The  Alcalde  was  much  disturbed  by  our  appearance. 
He  had  thought  that  he  had  no  one  to  deal  with  except 
the  negro,  Pedro,  who  was  evidently  too  poor  a  person  to 
make  trouble.  But  Duncan  is  a  man  of  some  prominence 
in  Panama,  on  friendly  terms  with  the  Administration. 
The  speed  with  which  the  Alcalde  got  down  on  his  knees 
was  amazing. 

As  we  started  out  the  next  morning,  Pedro's  friend  told 
us  that  the  Alcalde  had  despatched  a  messenger  during  the 
night  to  warn  the  claim-jumpers. 

But  we  had  hardly  gone  a  mile  from  Penonome"  when  all 
speculation  about  the  disposition  of  the  intruders  was 
driven  from  mind  by  the  immediate  difficulty  of  the  trail. 
It  was  at  the  height  of  the  dry  season  and  the  best  time  of 
year  for  inland  travel.  During  the  eight  months  of  rain 
the  way  would  have  been  utterly  impassable.  Duncan  had 
prospected  all  over  the  Rockies,  he  had  run  an  asbestos 
mine  at  the  bottom  of  the  Grand  Canon  and  had  lived  for 
years  in  Nicaragua.  He  said  he  had  never  seen  a  worse  trail. 
It  would  be  nearer  the  truth  to  say  it  was  no  trail  at  all.  It 
is,  however,  marked  on  the  Government  map — "comino 

I  found  out  afterwards  that  it  was  a  beautiful  and  inter- 
esting country  through  which  we  passed.  But  on  that 
trip  I  saw  nothing  but  the  tail  of  my  horse.  Once  in  every 
few  hours  we  would  come  to  a  bit  of  " Savannah"  where 
we  could  get  on  andk  ride — and  breathe.  But  most  of  it 
was  foot  work,  pushing  the  beasts  up  a  fifty  per  cent,  mud 
grade  or  shoving  them  down  one  that  was  worse.  Wading 
neck  deep  in  a  river  to  find  a  ford  was  a  pleasant  relief. 
I  could  not  make  up  my  mind  which  was  worse,  prying  the 
horses  out  of  quagmires  or  the  machete  work  when  we 
had  to  slash  a  passage  through  the  jungle  to  get  past  some 
impossible  barrier. 

114  PANAMA 

I  remember  once — we  had  just  dragged  the  horses  up  a 
long  hill  which  was  about  as  good  going  as  climbing  the  wall 
of  the  hot  room  in  a  Turkish  bath — and  a  mile  long.  I  leaned 
up  against  a  giant  lignum  vitce  tree,  its  wide  spreading 
branches  gorgeous  with  wistaria-colored  blossoms.  Wiping 
the  perspiration  out  of  my  eyes,  I  could  look  out  over  a  wide 
valley,  half  the  tree  tops  in  bloom.  Ten  feet  away  from  me 
hung  a  giant  "Annunciation"  orchid,  white  as  the  wings  of 
the  Archangel.  I  was  about  to  remark,  "By  Jove!  this  is 
glorious,"  when  there  was  a  snap  and  a  clatter.  The  cinch 
had  broken!  My  companions  were  already  a  good  ways 
down  the  trail.  And  by  the  time  I  had  the  pack  rearranged 
on  the  horse  they  were  out  of  sight,  and  I  had  no  time  to 
enjoy  the  view. 

The  sun  had  already  gone  down  when  we  reached  the 
"rancho"  where  we  were  to  pass  the  night.  I  have  a  vague 
memory  of  hanging  my  hammock,  of  eating  a  sort  of  stew 
which  Pedro  called  a  "Sancochi"  and  said  was  good — and  of 
a  dog  who  bayed  intermittently  the  night  through. 

We  made  an  early  start  the  next  morning.  Eleven  hours 
more  of  the  trail  which  was  ever  just  one  shade  this  side  of 

In  the  middle  of  the  afternoon  we  topped  the  Continental 
Divide  and  started  down  the  Atlantic  Slope.  Our  barom- 
eter registered  only  a  little  more  than  one  thousand  feet. 
But  it  must  have  been  broken — I  would  have  sworn  to  five 

The  Rio  Obre  was  the  boundary  to  Pedro's  claim  and  just 
beyond  it  we  came  to  the  camp  of  the  claim-jumpers.  As 
we  rode  towards  their  tent  they  made  a  demonstration  in 

The  Mexican  girl  stood  in  the  background  with  a  Win- 
chester. The  three  men,  looking  as  bold  and  bad  as  they 
knew  how,  strode  out  to  meet  us,  making  a  great  show  of 

THE    THIRST   FOE    GOLD  lib 

jerking  their  pistol  belts  into  position.  I  never  saw  a  more 
melodramatically  rigged  out  bunch  of  "bad  men"  off  the 
Bowery  stage — leather  "chaps,"  sombreros,  red  handker- 
chiefs, mighty  spurs.  They  certainly  had  made  up  for  the 

The  outcome  was  ludicrous  anti-climax.  I  had  never 
realized  how  utterly  dead  the  Wild  West  "bad  man"  is. 
He  has  crossed  the  Great  Divide  into  ancient  history. 

Duncan  tipped  me  the  wink  and  we  threw  up  our  hands 
and  cantered  towards  them. 

"My  sons,"  he  said,  "I've  got  a  twenty-two  single-shot 
target-pistol  somewhere  in  my  saddle  bags.  My  friend  here 
is  unarmed.  The  coon  has  a  gun  but  he  couldn't  hit  a 
barn.  We're  not  much  on  armament,  but — we've — got — 
the — cash.  You  bought  the  Alcalde  for  twenty  pesos.  I 
could  buy  him  back  for  twice  as  much,  but  it's  cheaper  to 
have  him  fired.  Your  claim's  no  good,  you  can't  afford 
to  fight  in  court.  Your  guns  are  out-of-date.  Money 
talks.  You'd  better  lope.  There's  lots  of  trails  leading  out 
of  this  place.  You  might  get  run  in  if  you  hang  around. 

Their  bold,  bad  manner  wilted.  When  we  passed  that 
way  again  they  were  gone. 

Although  we  had  so  easily  brushed  aside  these  desperados 
our  troubles  had  only  begun.  It  was  nightfall  when  we 
reached  the  end  of  our  journey — the  farm  which  Pedro  had 
taken  to  his  bosom  along  with  its  fair  owner.  It  was 

Pedro  said  he  could  not  understand  it.  But  it  looked 
plain  to  an  outsider.  Some  handsomer  man  had  come 
along  in  his  absence  and  waltzed  off  with  the  lady. 

The  matrimonial  arrangement  of  these  people  is  simple 
or  complex,  according  to  your  point  of  view.  As  nobody 
ever  gets  married  you  hear  no  scandal  about  bigamy  or 

116  PANAMA 

divorce.  Pedro  himself  was  not  in  a  position  to  wail  over 
this  desertion.  I  gathered  from  his  camp-fire  reminiscences 
that  he  had  been  born  in  British  Honduras  where  he  had 
had  a  "church-wife"  and  child.  He  had  lived  for  a  while 
in  Carthagena  where  he  had  left  a  woman  and  child,  a 
performance  which  he  had  repeated  in  Boca  del  Toro  and 
again  here. 

However,  we  had  little  time  to  wonder  over  Pedro's 
domestic  status.  We  were  two  days  hard  riding  from  the 
nearest  store,  without  adequate  provisions  and  no  cooking 
utensils.  We  burglariously  entered  the  deserted  rancho — 
I  had  never  realized  how  sturdily  they  are  built,  till  I  tried 
to  break  into  this  one.  A  careful  search  revealed  two 
broken  bowls  and  some  gourd  cups.  We  went  over  the  place 
with  a  fine  tooth  comb  and  our  one  candle  and  could  find 
no  more.  We  made  a  shift  to  boil  rice  in  one  of  the  cracked 
pots.  It  was  a  sorry  meal !  But  we  were  too  tired  to  worry 
much.  In  the  morning  we  hoped  to  find,  if  not  the  fatted 
calf,  at  least  some  growing  vegetables. 

We  found  nothing.  The  lady  in  departing  had  taken 
everything — even  digging  up  the  yams.  The  more  we  looked 
about,  the  less  tenable  our  position  appeared.  As  I  had  not 
been  stung  by  the  gold  microbe,  I  was  all  for  a  quick  retreat 
to  our  base  of  supplies.  But  not  so  with  these  prospectors, 
white  and  black;  they  had  the  thirst.  They  were  on  the 
scent  and  a  little  matter  like  nothing  to  eat  was  a  mere 
bagatelle.  The  prospector's  fever  is  like  first  love  in  its 
wild  insistency.  It  is  unlike  it  in  that  it  is  just  as  wild  the 
seventy  times  seventh  time  as  it  is  the  first. 

They  scraped  together  a  scant  breakfast  and  off  we  went. 
It  was  machete  work  all  the  day,  except  when  we  waded 
knee-deep  in  a  stream.  When  we  reached  the  place  where 
Pedro  had  found  his  samples  it  was  shovel  out  and  intense 
excitement.  Duncan  held  the  pan  and  Pedro  filled  it  with 

TEE    THIRST   FOB    GOLD  117 

gravel  and  yellow  mud.  Side  by  side,  on  their  knees,  by 
the  edge  of  the  stream  they  nursed  and  rocked  the  pan. 
Gradually  the  coarse  refuse  washed  away  and  only  the 
coal  black  sand  was  left.  The  tension  grew  steadily  as  the 
process  continued.  The  supreme  moment  comes  when  you 
drain  off  the  water  and  look  for  the  "streak."  Their  two 
pairs  of  eyes  peered  over  the  edge.  Yes.  There  was 
"color!"  At  the  very  edge  of  the  handful  of  black  sand 
there  were  half  a  dozen  specks  of  dull  gold.  Even  my 
inexperienced  eyes  could  see  it.  But  I — hungry  and  tired 
and  ill-tempered — pretended  not  to.  How  they  waved 
their  hands  and  shouted  at  me! 

All  day  long  the  scent  held  them.  Slashing  through  the 
jungle,  clambering  over  the  rocks,  wading  up  the  river — 
again  and  again  washing  out  a  panful  of  gravel — and  always 
vain  efforts  to  make  me  admit  that  I  saw  "color." 

Near  the  place  where  the  quartz  vein  cropped  out  they 
washed  one  pan  of  dirt  which  was  really  rich.  I  could  see 
twenty  or  thirty  minute  specks  of  gold.  Duncan  said  there 
were  fifty  "colors." 

"Why,"  he  said,  "it's  like  a  star-chart!  Can't  you  see 
them  sparkling  in  the  black  sand  background?" 

They  may  have  sparkled  for  him,  but  I  was  no-end  hun- 
gry, having  had  a  poor  sort  of  breakfast  and  no  lunch  at  all. 

About  four  o'clock  we  struck  our  first  and  only  piece  of 
good  fortune.  In  the  midst  of  the  jungle  we  stumbled  onto 
a  deserted  farm.  There  were  some  cocoanut  palms  and  some 
yams.  With  much  shooting  we  knocked  down  half  a  dozen 
nuts.  We  were  well  supplied  with  best  of  sauces,  and  those 
cocoanuts  certainly  were  welcome.  Pedro  dug  up  some 
yams,  and  we  made  camp  again  just  at  dusk. 

One  day  of  prospecting  did  not  satisfy  them,  but  it  was 
enough  for  me  and  I  spent  the  next  days  exploring  the 

118  PANAMA 

Close  to  the  deserted  "rancho"  there  was  a  little  river 
with  the  queer  name  of  the  "Rio  Brasses  de  U."  Taking 
an  early  morning  bath  in  it,  I  suddenly  set  eyes  on  a  most 
appetizing  looking  fish.  It  was  a  foot  and  a  half  long  with 
silver  scales,  splashed  with  black  and  red.  We  were  short 
on  cooking  utensils,  but  a  fish  can  be  planked.  A  water- 
fall cut  off  his  escape  up-stream,  I  built  a  makeshift  dam 
and  weir  a  hundred  feet  below  where  he  was  so  peacefully 
digesting  his  morning  haul  of  sand  flies.  A  very  gorgeous 
paroquet,  in  a  motley  of  green  and  scarlet,  jeered  at  me 
from  a  coco  bolo  tree.  Every  time  I  made  a  jump  at  that 
fish  he  croaked  out  a  phrase  in  his  jungle  lingo  which  sounded 
like,  and  certainly  meant,  "Foiled  again!"  After  half  an 
hour's  splashing  about  I  gave  up  hope  of  catching  him  in 
my  hands  or  spearing  him.  But  I  kept  at  it,  hoping  to  scare 
him  to  death.  But  he  had  nerves  of  iron.  At  last  I  lost 
interest  in  the  fish  and  began  throwing  stones  at  the  paro- 
quet. Even  a  Paris  cab-driver  could  have  learned  some- 
thing new  in  profanity  by  listening  to  that  bird's  conversa- 

In  the  afternoon  help  came.  I  was  dozing  in  my  ham- 
mock and  suddenly  awoke  with  the  startled  feeling  that 
someone  was  looking  at  me.  In  the  doorway  of  the  rancho 
was  a  sour  looking  old  "brave."  It  gave  little  comfort  to 
remember  that  the  Cholo  Indians  are  a  peaceful  tribe. 
I  had  an  uncomfortable  conviction  that  he  was  probably 
the  man  who  had  superseded  Pedro  in  the  affections  of  the 
owner  of  the  "rancho."  Our  right  to  make  free  with  the 
place  was  decidedly  vague. 

However  he  was  more  surprised  to  see  me  than  I  was  to 
see  him.  With  my  six  words  of  Spanish  I  soon  made  peace 
with  him.  He  and  his  family  appeared  to  be  moving. 
There  were  two  women  in  the  party — each  one  had  a  baby 
astraddle  of  her  hip  and  the  younger  one  also  had  a  papoose 

TEE    THIEST   FOE    GOLD  119 

strapped  to  her  back.  A  boy  of  twelve  and  a  girl  of  ten 
were  superintending  the  maneuvers  of  a  donkey  piled  high 
with  household  goods.  By  means  of  slight  of  hand  tricks 
and  pantomime  and  the  six  Spanish  words,  I  succeeded  in 
trading  our  salt  for  all  the  food  they  had  and  two  usable 

So  although  I  had  no  planked  fish  nor  paroquet  stew  for 
the  prospectors  I  managed  quite  an  elaborate  supper. 

The  Indian  family  camped  with  us  for  the  night  and  by 
despatching  the  youngster  off  to  a  settlement  some  miles 
away  we  found  fresh  eggs  and  vegetables  waiting  for  our 
breakfast  and  also  three  husky  young  Cholos — eager  for 
work  and  a  chance  to  go  to  town. 

So  we  took  our  time  on  the  home  trail.  And  leaving  the 
care  of  the  horses  and  luggage  to  the  Indians  were  able  to 
walk  at  our  ease  and  enjoy  the  manifold  wonders  of  the 

Whether  or  not  the  samples  we  brought  back  to  civiliza- 
tion will  assay  high  enough  to  make  the  claim  valuable,  I 
have,  of  course,  no  way  of  knowing.  That  is  a  matter  for 
experts.  But  of  one  thing  I  am  sure.  Before  machinery 
could  be  taken  up  that  trail  or  any  sort  of  a  labor  camp 
installed,  a  great  many  thousands  of  dollars  would  have  to 
be  sunk  in  road  building. 

The  memory  of  those  hungry  days  and  that  bitter  hard 
trail  make  it  easy  for  me  to  understand  that  even  in  this 
country,  where  gold  is  found  on  every  hand,  only  one  mine 
is  paying  dividends. 



To  the  lover  of  our  northern  woods,  the  jungle  is  a  never- 
ending  surprise. 

There  is  the  old  story  of  the  Irishman  who  went  to  a 
circus.  When  he  saw  the  kangaroo  he  threw  up  his  hands 
and  said,  "You  can't  fool  me.  There  ain't  no  such  crea- 
ture." To  the  person  who  has  never  been  nearer  the  tropics 
than  the  orchid  room  of  some  great  botanical  garden,  a  trip 
into  the  jungle  is  a  constant  strain  on  his  credulity. 

A  hundred  times  in  the  interior  of  Panama  my  soul  has 
longed  for  Old  John  Petrie,  who  knows  the  north  shore  of 
Lake  Superior  with  uncanny  precision.  How  utterly  he 
would  be  at  sea  in  a  mangrove  swamp !  It  would  have  been 
joy  unspeakable  to  watch  his  woodlore  crumple  up  in  a  for- 
est where  no  bark  was  familiar  to  this  touch,  to  see  him 
helpless  in  the  bottom  of  a  cayuka  watching  the  amazing 
feats  of  the  Cholo  Indians  poling  their  heavy  dug-out 
against  a  current — just  as  I  have  sat  in  humble  admiration 
of  his  skill  in  driving  a  paper-weight  birch-bark  up  the 
rapids  of  the  Sand  River.  And  then  I  would  have  had  no 
end  of  evil  glee  watching  the  tears  of  helpless  rage  in  his 
eyes  as  he  turned  the  edge  of  that  marvellous  axe  of  his 
against  an  iron-reed  or  lignum  vitce.  Anyone  who  knows 
him  or  his  kind  can  picture  his  disgust  at  having  to  give  it 
up,  while  the  natives  brought  in  the  firewood  with  their 
machetes.  How  a  North  Woods  guide  would  despise  a 
machete!  And  how  his  eyes  would  pop  out  when  he  saw 
what  a  Spanish-Indian  can  do  with  one. 


THE    JUNGLE  121 

In  one  respect  the  jungle  is  like  the  great  Sahara  or  the 
sea.  It  is  a  thing  of  fear — and  death — to  the  people  who 
must  live  in  it.  A  thing  of  beauty — a  rich  experience — only 
to  the  traveller  who  passes  through  for  pleasure. 

There  are  two  old  sisters  down  Cape  Cod  way  who  keep 
a  summer  boarding  house.  Their  guests  come  to  play  with 
the  ocean,  to  splash  in  the  surf,  to  build  castles  in  the  sand 
and  sail  in  toy  boats.  The  two  old  women  are  fisher  folk, 
their  father  and  brothers,  the  husband  and  son  of  one,  the 
lover  of  the  other,  have  been  swallowed  up  in  the  sea.  And 
when  their  guests,  tired  of  romping  with  the  monster,  troop 
up  from  the  beach,  laughing,  there  is  a  look  of  concentrated 
horror  in  the  eyes  of  the  sisters. 

It  is  the  same  with  the  jungle.  There  is  a  man  whom 
you  may  meet  in  Panama,  yellow  with  fever,  bent  and 
twisted  with  rheumatism,  the  wreck  of  a  strong  man,  old 
before  his  time.  He  has  been  defeated  in  a  five-year  strug- 
gle with  the  jungle.  He  has  sunk  not  only  his  health  and 
his  own  money,  but  all  he  could  borrow  from  friends — and 
strangers.  He  has  gone  broke  in  an  effort  to  cash  in  some 
of  the  luxuriant  wealth  of  the  jungle.  He  hates  the  word. 
His  scheme  sounds  perfectly  good.  As  he  tells  it  to  you  in 
some  cafe,  despite  the  gaunt  ruin  of  his  face,  it  sounds  good. 
There  was  no  fraud  to  his  failure,  no  carelessness.  He  was 
a  man  used  to  success,  he  appreciated  all  the  importance  of 
the  minute  details  which  go  to  make  it.  His  scheme  was 
well  thought  out  and  his  face  and  bent  figure  show  you 
how  utterly  he  spent  himself  in  the  enterprise.  The  jungle 
had  made  sport  of  him.  Freshets  had  swept  away  his 
camp.  The  thousands  he  had  put  into  his  road  had  been 
washed  out  in  a  night.  Three  separate  times  the  river  had 
upset  his  canoes,  swallowing  each  time  a  season's  provisions. 
A  rare  disease,  of  which  only  a  few  cases  have  been  observed 
in  Ancon  Hospital,  killed  two  of  his  foremen,  one  after  the 

122  PANAMA 

other.  Lightning  had  smashed  a  derrick  and  a  donkey- 
engine  which  he  had  brought  into  the  jungle  with  incredible 
exertion.  The  jungle  had  said,  "No." 

And  so  at  Biskra,  on  the  edge  of  the  desert,  one  can  see 
gaunt-faced,  spare-limbed  Bedouins  looking  in  uncompre- 
hending wonder  at  the  ecstasy  of  tourists  raving  over  the 
beauties  of  their  barren,  hungry  home.  The  natives  of  the 
Isthmus  do  not  share  my  enthusiasm  for  the  jungle.  To 
them  it  means  fields  which  will  not  stay  cleared.  Just  as 
the  Hollander  cannot  stop  work  on  his  dykes,  so  the  Pana- 
manian can  never  lay  down  his  machete.  In  three  weeks 
his  farm  would  be  engulfed. 

The  jungle,  with  all  its  wondrous  beauty,  is  the  enemy 
of  the  man  who  works  in  it.  But  for  the  traveller,  who  has 
a  week  or  so  to  spare,  it  offers  endless  variety,  endless  in- 
terest and  "newness." 

Thousands  of  tourists  visit  the  Isthmus  every  year.  It 
is  remarkable  how  few  of  them  seize  the  opportunity  for  a 
jungle  excursion — an  experience  which  does  not  offer  itself 
often  to  the  busy  American. 

Of  course  with  the  wrong  equipment  one  can  be  just  as 
bitterly  uncomfortable  in  the  tropics  as  one  would  be  in 
Greenland  in  a  bathing  suit.  But  with  ordinary  common- 
sense  one  can  cross  the  Isthmus  anywhere  west  of  the 
Canal  Zone  with  as  few  hardships  as  one  would  expect  in 

One  wants  khaki  clothes,  as  light  as  is  consistent  with 
toughness,  leggings,  a  poncho,  and  a  hammock.  Above  all, 
one  must  be  prepared  for  the  wet.  Many  of  the  trails  lead 
up  the  bed  of  a  stream,  and  in  the  mountains  one  must 
expect  some  rain. 

If  you  go  into  the  jungle  for  pleasure,  go  afoot.  What 
look  like  automobile  roads  on  the  map  turn  out  to  be  steps 
in  the  hillside — and  slippery  ones.  I  do  not  know  anything 

TEE   JUNGLE  123 

more  vexatious  than  a  horse  without  a  trail.  Two  Indians 
can  carry  more  freight  than  a  horse,  and  will  do  it  cheaper. 
Best  of  all,  they  will  put  on  their  own  packs.  The  natives 
are  not  initiated  into  the  mystery  of  the  "diamond  hitch," 
or  any  other  hitch  for  that  matter. 

Two  tenderfoots  ought  to  be  able  to  make  a  two  weeks 
trip  on  less  than  five  dollars  a  day.  Unless  they  can  speak 
Spanish  fluently,  they  should  hire  a  "boss"  in  Panama. 
It  is  expedient  to  make  your  contract  explicit  and  to  register 
it  at  the  consulate.  The  Panamanians  have  considerable 
skill  in  charging  for  extras.  It  is  also  well  to  pay  a  call  of 
respect  on  the  Alcalde  of  every  village  you  enter.  It  flatters 
him  and  puts  him  on  your  side  in  case  of  a  dispute. 

In  making  out  a  list  of  provisions,  it  is  worth  while  to 
include  salt,  powder  and  shot,  or  knives.  They  are  presents 
much  appreciated  by  the  Indians.  Needles  will  win  the 
hearts  of  the  older  ladies,  cheap  mirrors  those  of  the  belles. 

Once  out  of  sight  of  the  American-built  houses  of  the 
Canal  Zone,  you  enter  a  wonderland.  If  you  encounter 
any  living  thing  which  even  remotely  resembles  any  tree 
or  beast  or  bird  you  ever  saw  in  the  States,  it  is  something 
to  talk  about  all  day. 

On  my  first  trip  into  the  interior,  it  was  necessary  for 
me  after  a  few  days  to  leave  the  outfit  and  make  my  way 
back  to  civilization  alone.  It  was  one  of  the  pleasantest 
days  in  my  memory.  There  was  a  bit  of  excitement  to  it, 
as  I  was  green  to  the  jungle,  did  not  know  the  trail  and  had 
only  a  few  words  of  Spanish.  However,  the  Indians  said 
they  could  make  the  distance  in  five  hours,  with  an  early 
start,  I  had  twice  as  many.  And  to  enjoy  nature,  or  any- 
thing worth  while,  one  must  have  leisure. 

My  horse  would  have  spoiled  it  all,  if  it  had  not  been  for 
him  a  home  trail.  Very  little  of  the  way  was  practicable 
for  riding.  But  as  his  nose  was  aimed  toward  his  manger  he 

124  PANAMA 

followed  readily.  At  times  it  was  necessary  to  cut  a  way  for 
him  through  the  jungle,  around  a  fallen  tree,  a  bottomless 
quagmire  or  other  obstacle  impossible  for  a  horse,  but  beyond 
these  delays,  he  bothered  me  very  little.  On  the  out  trip, 
going  away  from  his  stable,  he  had  been  a  constant  nuisance. 
Most  of  the  time  I  scouted  far  enough  ahead  to  find  the 
jungle  undisturbed  by  his  noise. 

The  most  striking  thing  about  the  jungle,  the  thing  which 
hits  you  in  the  face,  is  the  color.  There  is  none  of  the 
modulation,  the  melting  of  one  shade  into  another,  of  the 

Back  of  everything  is  the  all-pervading  green.  So  slight 
are  the  differences  in  values  of  the  various  greens  that  it  is 
almost  impossible  to  get  a  photograph  of  tropical  foliage. 
No  matter  how  small  a  diaphragm  I  used,  nor  how  long  the 
exposure,  my  negatives  came  out  a  blank.  The  ever- 
present  background  is  an  almost  undifferentiated  green. 
And  spattered  all  over  it,  like  a  post-impressionist  painting, 
are  masses  of  color  in  most  vivid  contrasts.  And  this  is 
one  of  the  hard-to-believe  things  about  the  jungle — these 
slap-dash  daubs  of  lurid  yellow,  crimson,  green  and  dazzling 
white  are  beautiful.  Somehow  the  intense  southern  light 
reduces  this  unspeakable  gaudiness  to  a  rich,  but  real,  har- 
mony. Somehow  the  jungle,  to  use  theatrical  slang,  "puts 
over"  bizarre  color  schemes  which  at  home  would  justify 
homicide.  Look  through  any  book  on  color  for  a  list  of 
shades  which  will  not  harmonize.  You  will  find  them  side 
by  side  in  the  jungle.  I  cannot  ask  you  to  believe  that 
such  indecent  combinations  are  beautiful.  I  could  not  be- 
lieve it  when  I  saw  them,  but  it  is  true. 

A  few  details  of  that  gorgeous  tapestry  stick  in  my  mem- 
ory. There  is  a  tree — its  bare  stalk,  six  inches  round,  rises 
ten  or  fifteen  feet — with  a  crest  of  giant  buttercups,  half  a 
foot  across.  There  are  lignum  vitce — immense  trees,  the 

TEE    JUNGLE  125 

hardest  kind  of  wood  that  grows — whose  myriad  tiny  blos- 
soms are  the  color  of  wistaria.  There  are  a  dozen  flowering 
trees — the  Royal  Poinciana,  it  is  known  to  people  who  have 
wintered  in  Florida.  Another — its  name  I  could  not  dis- 
cover— which  breaks  out  into  great  clouds  of  honey  yellow 
— you  can  see  them  blazing  out  on  the  mountain  sides  miles 
and  miles  away. 

Side  by  side  these  giant  flowers  of  the  Eocene,  the  ten- 
foot  festoons  of  maiden-hairish  ferns  and  Cyclopian  tufts 
of  grass,  there  is  an  innumerable  variety  of  minute  flowers. 
There  is  a  tiny  hair-like  stalk  which  balances  a  little  bluebell 
no  bigger  than  one  blossom  of  a  mignonette. 

And  then  there  are  the  orchids.  A  little  wax-white  blos- 
som of  tube  rose  texture  is  common,  but  no  orchid  can  be 
commonplace.  Even  the  simplest  of  them  have  an  ele- 
ment of  mystery,  of  the  unbelievable,  about  them.  The 
natives  express  this  by  the  names  they  give  them.  This 
common  white  orchid  they  call  "The  Tears  of  the  Virgin." 
A  red  variety  they  have  christened  "The  Seventh  Deadly 
Sin."  "The  Annunciation,"  "The  Bride  of  Christ,"  all  the 
names  suggest  the  unearthliness  of  these  air-plants.  The 
daffodil-yellow  variety,  the  kind  one  looks  at  longingly  in 
the  florist's  shop  and,  remembering  next  month's  rent,  turns 
from  to  buy  her  roses,  can  be  found  here  by  the  score. 

I  encountered  one  orchid  which  was  new  to  me,  which  I 
have  never  found  listed  in  any  catalogue.  A  thin  twisted 
stem,  which  looked  like  a  telephone  wire,  hung  down  ten 
feet  or  more  from  a  great  branch  which  stretched  across  the 
trail.  Just  above  my  reach,  standing  in  the  saddle,  was  a 
battery  of  a  score  of  buds,  like  those  of  a  gladiola.  Half  of 
them  had  broken  open.  The  blossoms  were  unutterably 
red — intenser  scarlet  than  the  hybiscus.  I  spent  an  hour 
trying  to  encompass  its  downfall,  but  old  Dame  Nature 
had  been  especially  proud  of  this  bit  of  handiwork  and  had 

126  PANAMA 

hung  it  safely  out  of  reach.  It  was  so  perfect  it  would  be 
hard  to  believe  in  its  counterpart. 

Of  vines  and  creepers  there  is  an  equally  dizzying  variety. 
One  of  them  is,  I  am  sure,  the  original  inspiration  of  the 
"clinging  vine"  tradition.  It  kills  the  tree  it  grows  upon 
not  by  strangulation,  but  by  smothering.  Its  leaves  grow 
with  a  precision  which  seems  intelligent.  They  lay  flat  on 
the  bark  of  the  tree,  overlapping  each  other  about  a  quarter 
of  an  inch,  until  they  have  enveloped  the  doomed  trunk  in 
an  air  tight  sheath.  And  a  tree  must  breathe. 

"Luxuriant"  is  not  a  strong  enough  word  to  describe  the 
vegetation  of  the  jungle.  I  know  no  word  which  is.  There 
is  a  prolificness  about  it  which  makes  shad  roe  look  like  a 
symbol  of  race  suicide.  One  is  oppressed  by  a  feeling  that 
the  jungle  is  continually  giving  birth — that  it  is  guilty  of 
mad,  ungoverned  spawning.  Death  comes  to  the  things 
of  the  jungle,  not  so  much  from  extraneous  accident  as  from 
the  sheer  pressure  of  birth.  The  new  is  pushing  into  life 
with  such  indecent  haste,  such  irresistible  insistence,  that 
nothing  has  a  chance  to  reach  a  ripe  maturity.  The  rot- 
ting leaves  underfoot  seem  to  have  been  only  half  developed. 

So  strenuous  is  the  vegetable  life,  that  animals  are  crowded 
out.  The  largest  quadruped  is  a  stunted  deer.  Most  of  the 
fauna  are  pre-glacial  types  which  have  persisted  in  degen- 
erate form.  Walking  along  the  trail  that  day  I  encountered 
a  tapir.  It  seemed  a  dwarf  strayed  out  of  the  Age  of  Mam- 
moths. It  is  the  same  with  the  iguana.  They  are  often 
referred  to  as  the  "giant  lizard."  I  have  seen  several  in 
the  jungle,  two  and  three — one  close  to  five — feet  long. 
But  they  are  "giants"  only  because  the  day  of  lizards  is 
gone.  They  are  degenerate  offspring  of  monsters  which 
have  long  since  passed  away.  Even  the  representatives  of 
the  cats — which  the  natives  call  a  "tiger" — is  a  puny  thing. 

But  if  the  plants  have  preempted  the  ground  space,  to 

THE   JUNGLE  127 

the  exclusion  of  the  prouder  animal  forms,  the  air  is  free 
for  abundant  insect  life.  You  cannot  walk  ten  feet  without 
crossing  the  trail — a  well-beaten  path — of  some  variety  of 
ants.  The  tropics  are  the  happy  hunting  grounds  of  the 
entomologists.  Mr.  Busck,  a  unit  in  the  Biological  Survey, 
which  the  Smithsonian  Institution  is  making  on  the  Canal 
Zone,  has  collected  several  thousand  varieties  of  moths — 
from  the  ghostly  venus  moth  to  the  minute,  almost  micro- 
scopic species,  which  are  his  special  interest.  I  have  been 
afield  with  Professor  Schwartz,  the  beetle-man  of  the 
Survey.  I  recall  one  time  when  he  spread  a  sheet  under  a 
low-hanging  palm  blossom.  He  struck  the  great  pod  with 
the  flat  of  his  machete  and  the  sheet  was  covered  with 
hurrying,  scurrying  life.  Over  forty  varieties  of  bugs  had 
fallen  out  of  that  one  flower. 

Details — all  these  things  I  have  recounted!  They  are 
the  proverbial  trees  which  distract  the  view  from  the 
forest.  Back  of  them  all  stands  the  jungle,  an  entity,  one 
and  indescribable.  I  think  everyone  who  has  ever  entered 
the  jungle  has  felt  it  as  a  personality — hardly  lovable,  but 
infinitely  fascinating.  No  one  can  escape  the  spell  of  its 
beauty,  a  beauty  rich  and  luxuriant  and  threatening,  a 
beauty  underlaid  with  dread — it  is  something  like  a  tiger's 
paw,  rich  in  color,  caressingly  soft  and  dangerous.  If  you 
could  make  a  woman  out  of  the  ideals  of  Rubens,  da  Vinci 
and  Manet  she — a  compound  of  the  exuberant  vulgarity  of 
the  Dutchman's  nymphs,  of  Mona  Lisa's  exotic,  ineffable 
smile,  and  of  the  cold  cruelty  of  "Olympia" — she  would 
have  the  charm  I  spoke  of.  But  no  painter  ever  put  such 
a  woman  on  canvas.  No  writer  has,  or  ever  will,  give  an 
adequate  description  of  the  jungle. 

One  experience  stands  out,  from  all  my  memories  of  the 
jungle,  like  a  vignette. 

Working  my  way  along  the  unknown  trail  that  day  I 

128  PANAMA 

questioned  the  few  people  I  met  about  the  directions.  At 
one  time  I  passed  a  field  where  an  Indian  and  his  wife  and 
several  children  were  at  work,  but  too  far  from  the  path 
to  be  hailed.  A  little  beyond  them  I  came  to  more  open 
country  and  a  chance  to  ride — and  then  the  trail  forked. 
Whether  to  turn  to  the  right  or  left  I  had  no  way  of  know- 
ing. Should  I  go  back  the  half  mile  and  ask  or  take  a 
chance?  I  pitched  a  penny  and  took  the  right-hand  road. 
But  a  pitched  penny  has  its  limitations  as  an  oracle  and  I 
was  not  at  all  sure  that  I  had  been  wise  in  blindly  accepting 
its  advice.  But  hardly  a  hundred  yards  beyond  the  fork 
I  came  to  a  clearing  and  a  rancho.  In  a  little  lean-to  kitchen 
a  girl  of  about  sixteen  was  pounding  rice.  Like  all  the 
Indian  women  outside  of  towns  she  wore  only  a  meagre 
skirt.  At  sight  of  a  stranger,  she  gave  a  dismayed  squeal 
and  darted  into  the  house.  I  did  not  want  to  frighten  her, 
but  I  did  want  to  know  if  I  was  on  the  right  trail.  I  rode 
up  to  the  house  and  without  dismounting,  I  hailed  her. 

"  Buenos  dios,  Senorita." 

No  reply.  Through  some  crevice  in  the  wattle  wall  of 
the  rancho,  I  knew  she  was  watching  me.  I  endeavored  to 
assume  a  harmless  expression.  "  Senorita,"  I  called  again. 

No  reply.  Well,  if  she  was  going  to  be  obstinate,  I  could 
be  as  stubborn  as  any  Cholo  Indian.  So  I  sat  tight  and 
waited.  I  could  feel  her  eyes  spying  at  me.  After  awhile 
she  seemed  reassured  and  peeked  around  the  door  post  and 
asked  what  I  wanted. 

"Is  this  the  main  trail?"  I  asked. 

If  all  I  wanted  was  to  inquire  my  way,  she  decided  that 
she  had  nothing  to  fear  and  came  out  on  the  threshold. 

"Si,  Senor.  .  .  ."  And  then  a  string  of  rapid  Span- 
ish which  I  guessed  to  be  detailed  directions  but  which  I 
could  not  understand. 

I  asked  her  to  speak  slowly — told  her  that  I  knew  very 

THE   JUNGLE  129 

little  Spanish.  Her  big  eyes  opened  wider.  I  suppose  she 
had  never  known  of  anyone,  except  new-born  babies,  who 
could  not  talk  fluently.  I  tried  to  explain  the  situation  to 
her,  telling  her  that  I  was  a  Gringo  and  came  from  another 
country  very  far  away.  But  this  was  entirely  beyond  her 
comprehension.  The  pitying  look  came  to  her  face  which 
we  use  on  the  hopelessly  insane.  I  doubt  if  she  had  seen 
six  white  men  in  her  life — and  they  had  all  been  able  to 
talk.  But  she  had  seen  Indians  who  had  been  touched  by 
God — loko — and  I  was  more  like  them  than  the  Spaniards. 

No  one  likes  to  be  thought  crazy,  and  besides  she  was  a 
very  pretty  youngster.  The  face  of  the  Cholos  is  broader 
than  we  like,  the  bodies  of  the  older  folk  are  heavy  and 
squat.  But  this  slip  of  a  girl  might  well  have  served  as 
model  to  some  dainty  eighteenth-century  painter. 

I  tried  desperately  to  appear  intelligent.  I  succeeded  in 
asking  her  if  she  had  any  oranges  or  bananas.  Yes.  She 
had  a  tree  full  of  oranges  back  of  the  rancho.  The  way  she 
went  up  that  tree  was  a  wonder  to  see.  She  had  all  the 
agility,  but  none  of  the  ungracefulness,  of  a  monkey.  I 
could  not  think  of  the  Spanish  word  for  " enough"  or 
"stop,"  and  she  threw  down  almost  two  dozen.  I  tied  up 
my  horse  and  sat  down  at  the  foot  of  a  cocoanut  palm  and 
began  to  eat.  I  tried  to  get  her  to  join  me.  But  I  sup- 
pose an  Indian  woman  does  not  eat  in  the  presence  of  the 
Lord  of  Creation.  She  squatted  down  a  little  way  apart 
and  watched  me  closely.  I  think  she  was  wondering  if  I 
was  crazy  enough  to  try  to  eat  with  my  ear. 

Whenever  I  could  think  of  two  Spanish  words  which  hang 
together  I  would  say  them.  At  first  she  took  it  very  sol- 
emnly, but  after  awhile  some  of  my  incongruous  output 
twitched  her  sense  of  humor,  and  she  laughed.  And  that 
is  a  notable  thing  about  primitive  peoples,  they  have  not 
learned  to  cut  themselves  up  into  fractions.  A  civilized 

130  PANAMA 

woman  can  laugh  with  her  eyes,  or  her  lips,  while  her  shoul- 
ders droop  mournfully.  But  this  little  Minnehaha  laughed 
all  over — her  knees,  her  toes,  her  whole  body  wriggled  with 
mirth.  And  somehow  it  relieved  the  depression  of  my 
spirit.  Even  if  she  did  think  I  was  an  imbecile,  she  evi- 
dently considered  me  an  amusing  one.  That  was  some 

She  brought  me  a  calabash  of  spring  water  for  a  finger 
bowl.  I  pleased  her  mightily  with  the  gift  of  a  little  round 
looking-glass — and  so  rode  away. 

I  know  she  will  treasure  the  mirror,  and  when  she  admires 
herself  in  it,  she  will  remember  me.  There  is  something 
warming  in  the  thought  that  I  will  be  often  in  her  mind. 
I  wonder  if  she  tells  everybody  about  the  crazy  Gringo  who 
made  her  laugh.  I  have  a  feeling  that  she  has  kept  the 
adventure  rather  secret.  I  wonder  if  the  husband  who  will 
sometime  claim  her  will  be  subtle  enough  to  be  jealous  of 

A  banal  experience,  when  written  down.  Just  a  usually 
unsentimental  Yankee  globe-trotter,  who  is  a  poor  linguist, 
and  a  half-naked,  woefully  ignorant  Indian  girl  who  met  in 
the  jungle  and  laughed  together.  And  yet  it  is  not  banal. 

Once  upon  a  time  I  was  in  Venice — and  bitterly  blue. 
Two  friends  who  were  very  happy  took  me  out  in  their 
gondola  to  hear  the  evening  singing  on  the  Lagoon,  by 
Santa  Maria  della  Salute.  They  sat  in  front  of  me  and  were 
so  happy  they  forgot  everything  but  each  other — which 
helped  to  intensify  my  "  blues."  The  gondolas  crowd 
about  the  singing  barges  so  close  that  the  man  who  passes 
the  hat  can  step  from  one  to  another.  My  thoughts  were 
very  far  away,  when  a  gondola  aimed  in  the  opposite  direc- 
tion grated  alongside  of  ours.  I  looked  up — into  a  pair  of 
very  wise  brown  eyes.  I  do  not  know  whether  there  were 
others  in  that  boat,  nor  how  the  woman  was  dressed.  I 

THE   JUNGLE  131 

saw  only  those  quiet,  gentle  eyes — and  something  very 
vague  and  unwrit cable  behind  them.  Very  slowly  the  boats 
slipped  apart — gradually  those  glowing  eyes  disappeared 
in  the  dusk.  What  manner  of  woman  she  was  I  have  no 
idea.  But  the  something  I  saw  back  of  her  eyes  straight- 
ened out  and  smoothed  many  things  which  were  awry. 
The  moonlight  on  the  stained  and  faded  palaces  was  sheer 
glory.  The  music  found  a  perfect  harmony.  Even  the 
succulent  happiness  of  my  friends  took  on  a  mystic  beauty. 
I  think  that  in  that  one  night  under  the  influence  of  those 
wonderful  eyes,  I  saw  Vencie  as  Whistler  and  the  great 
artists  have  seen  it. 

This  Lady  of  Venice  has  passed  utterly  out  of  my  life — 
and  yet  she  remains,  a  more  vivid  reality  than  Venice  itself. 
It  is  the  same  with  this  Cholo  girl  in  the  jungle.  I  will 
never  see  her  again.  And  yet  she  stands  out  in  my  memory 
as  a  definite,  indestructible  addition  to  my  treasure  store 
of  real  experiences. 

Almost  all  of  us,  I  think,  have  some  such  memories 
horded  away.  Life  would  be  barren  indeed  if  there  was 
nothing  to  it  except  the  things  which  can  be  written  down 
explicitly — catalogued. 

The  charm  of  the  jungle  is  just  such  a  floating,  haunting 
thing.  In  the  reports  of  the  Smithsonian  Institution  you  will 
find  its  details  catalogued  but  you  will  not  find  it.  Henri 
Bergeson  would  say  that  it  makes  its  appeal  to  that  "in- 
tuitional fringe  of  consciousness"  which  cannot  find  expres- 
sion in  words — the  language  of  reason. 



THE  first  Europeans  to  visit  the  Isthmus  of  Panama  were 
those  who,  under  the  leadership  of  Rodrigo  de  Bastides,  sailed 
from  Cadiz  in  October,  1500.  Vasco  Nunez  de  Balboa  was 
among  them.  The  records  of  this  expedition  are  meagre, 
but  we  know  that  they  picked  up  the  main  land  of  South 
America  near  Trinidad  and  coasted  westward,  past  the  Gulf 
of  Darien  and  along  the  Isthmus  as  far  as  Nombre  de  Dios. 

The  "Lettera  Rarissima  di  Cristoforo  Colombo,"  an 
Italian  version  of  a  despatch  from  the  great  discoverer  to 
Ferdinand  and  Isabella,  contains  the  earliest  account  of  the 
Isthmus  in  existence.  He  wrote  this  letter  while  ship- 
wrecked on  the  coast  of  Jamaica  at  the  end  of  his  fourth  and 
last  voyage  to  the  Indies. 

It  is  interesting  to  note  in  passing  one  of  the  great  ironies 
of  history.  Above  all  others  the  English-speaking  peoples 
have  profited  from  the  discoveries  of  Columbus.  During 
his  lifetime  they  did  not  know  of  his  existence.  The  Old 
World  took  little  interest  in  the  finding  of  a  new  one. 

The  earliest  allusion  to  Columbus  in  English  literature  is 
in  "The  Shyppe  of  Fooles,"  a  satirical  poem  which  Henry 
Watson  translated  from  the  German.  It  is  written  in  the 
spirit  of  Juvenal's  satire  "On  the  Vanity  of  Human  Wishs." 
One  chapter  is  headed  "Of  hym  that  wyll  wryte  and  enquere 
of  all  regyons,"  and  the  following  lines  refer  to  Columbus: 

"There  was  one  that  knewe  that  in  ye  ysles  of  Spayne  was 
enhabitantes.  Wherefore  he  asked  of  Kynge  Ferdynandus 
&  wente  &  founde  them,  the  whiche  lyved  as  beestes." 


THE    COMING    OF    TEE    WHITE    MAN  133 

This  book  was  printed  in  London  in  1509,  three  years  after 
the  death  of  the  admiral — more  than  fifteen  years  after  his 
discoveries  were  known  in  Spain  and  Italy. 

"Until  the  middle  of  the  sixteenth  century,"  writes  John 
Fiske,  "no  English  chronicler  mentions  either  Columbus  or 
the  Cabots,  nor  is  there  anywhere  an  indication  that  the 
significance  of  the  discoveries  in  the  western  ocean  was  at  all 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  westward  cruises  had  not  been 
"good  business."  The  Portuguese,  sailing  around  the  Cape 
of  Good  Hope,  were  finding  real  treasure  houses  in  the  Orient. 
Compared  with  this  trade,  Columbus  had  little  to  show.  At 
best  he  had  found  a  shorter  course,  to  a  very  poor  section  of 
the  Indies.  It  was  the  failure  of  any  of  the  western  expedi- 
tions to  reach  the  Court  of  the  Great  Khan  which  was  the 
motive  of  Columbus's  last  voyage.  He  had  made  himself  in- 
tensely unpopular  at  court  by  insisting  that  the  king  should 
keep  his  promise.  He  had  discredited  himself  during  his 
governorship  of  Santo  Domingo.  And  now,  an  old  man  of 
over  sixty,  he  set  out  again  to  retrieve  his  reputation.  He 
would  bring  back  from  this  voyage  not  some  naked  savages, 
a  few  handfuls  of  gold  dust  and  pearls,  but  presents  from  the 
Great  Khan. 

On  the  9th  or  llth  of  May,  1502  (the  date  is  uncertain),  he 
sailed  from  Cadiz  with  four  caravels,  the  largest  of  which  was 
under  fifty  tons.  He  was  accompanied  by  his  brother 
Bartholomew,  the  Adelantado  and  his  younger  son,  Fer- 
dinando,  the  child  of  the  mysterious  noble  woman  of  Cordova, 
Donna  Beatriz  Enriquez  de  Arana.  The  boy  was  less  than 
fourteen  years  of  age. 

It  was  a  little  over  a  month  when  they  sighted  the  first 
of  the  Caribbee  Isles,  and  on  the  29th  of  June  they  cast 
anchor  before  the  port  of  Santo  Domingo.  But  the  Governor 
Ovando  reftised  to  admit  them,  so  they  put  to  sea  again  and 

134  PANAMA 

were  forced  by  a  hurricane  to  put  into  Puerto  Hermoso  at 
the  western  end  of  the  island.  The  admiral  remained  here 
several  days  to  repair  his  ships  and  refresh  the  men.  Another 
storm  forced  him  to  seek  shelter  again  and  he  was  weather- 
bound in  Jacquemel  until  the  14th  of  July. 

On  the  30th  they  reached  a  new  island,  called  by  the 
natives  "Guanaja."  It  was  close  to  the  coast  of  Honduras. 
Here  they  met  a  large  cayuka  which  had  come  from  the 
west.  It  was  cut  from  a  single  trunk  and  was  eight  feet 
wide.  Near  the  centre  of  this  immense  canoe  was  a  thatched 
cabin  which  reminded  Columbus  of  the  gondolas  of  Venice. 
There  were  twenty-five  oarsmen,  besides  the  chieftain  and 
his  family.  The  natives  had  implements  of  copper,  the 
first  metal  tools  seen  by  the  Spaniards  in  America.  Among 
other  novelties  mentioned  in  the  "lettera  rarissima"  were  two 
new  beverages  which  the  Indians  offered  to  the  voyagers — 
cocoa  and  a  fermented  drink  made  from  maize.  The  visitors 
were  also  surprised  to  find  that  the  wives  of  the  chief  covered 
their  bodies  with  great  care.  The  account  says  that  they 
were  as  modest  as  Moorish  women. 

These  natives  tried  to  impress  the  Spaniards  with  the 
might  and  magnificence  of  their  country.  Such  stories 
were  what  Columbus  was  hungry  for  and  he  probably 
exaggerated  them  in  his  report.  If  he  had  accepted  their 
invitation  to  visit  their  homes  he  would  undoubtedly  have 
come  to  Yucatan  and  the  Aztec  peoples  and  his  career  would 
have  ended  in  a  new  glory  instead  of  disappointment.  But 
he  was  keen  for  the  greater  accomplishment  of  finding  the 
"Strait,"  the  short  cut  to  Cathay.  Besides  he  thought  that 
Cuba  was  part  of  the  mainland  and  that  to  have  gone  toward 
the  west  was  to  return  to  lands  he  had  already  visited. 

So  he  sailed  on  in  his  hopeless  quest.  On  the  14th  of 
August  he  struck  the  mainland  at  Cape  Honduras.  Three 
days  later  the  Adelantado  landed  and  took  possession  of  the 

THE    COMING    OF   THE    WHITE   MAN  135 

coast  in  the  name  of  the  Spanish  Crown.  This  occasion  is 
said  to  have  been  the  first  time  that  a  Christian  service  was 
held  on  the  continent  of  America. 

They  sailed  eastward  along  the  coast  of  Honduras,  tacking 
continually  against  a  head  wind  and  opposing  current,  never 
making  more  than  five  leagues,  sometimes  less  than  two. 
The  sailors  became  so  exhausted  with  the  constant  struggle 
that  they  confessed  to  each  other  and  prepared  themselves 
for  death. 

Even  in  the  days  when  the  Almirante  was  going  back  to 
Spain  in  chains,  his  condition  does  not  seem  to  have  been  as 
pitiable  as  at  this  time.  He  himself  was  wracked  with 
"gout" — more  probably  what  we  would  call  rheumatism. 
His  crazy  little  ships  were  in  a  sore  plight  from  the  continual 
buffeting  of  the  storms. 

In  the  "lettera  rarissima"  he  writes,  "I  have  seen  many 
tempests  but  none  so  violent  nor  of  so  long  duration."  "  The 
distress  of  my  son,"  he  writes  in  another  paragraph,  "grieved 
me  to  the  soul,  and  the  more  when  I  consider  his  tender  age; 
for  he  was  but  thirteen  years  old,  and  he  enduring  so  much 
toil  for  so  long  a  time."  And  again,  "My  brother  was  in 
the  ship  that  was  in  the  worst  condition  and  the  most  exposed 
to  danger;  and  my  grief  on  his  account  was  the  greater  that 
I  had  brought  him  with  me  against  his  will." 

For  a  full  month  after  reaching  Cape  Honduras  they  fought 
their  way  against  the  gale.  On  the  14th  of  September  they 
came  to  a  sharp  turn  in  the  coast.  Able  now  to  head  due 
south,  with  favorable  wind  and  current,  they  were  so  relieved 
that  they  named  the  place  "Cape  Gracios  d  Dios." 

On  the  25th  they  came  to  a  beautiful  island  off  the  mouth 
of  a  river  which  they  named  "La  Huesta,"  The  Garden. 
The  natives  were  friendly  and  Columbus  wishing  to  give  the 
impression  of  magnanimity  refused  to  accept  their  presents 
although  he  gave  them  many  trinkets.  This  breach  of 

136  PANAMA 

barbarian  hospitality  insulted  the  Indians  and  they  returned 
all  his  gifts.  But  peace  was  soon  restored  and  two  young 
girls  were  sent  out  to  the  ships  as  hostages.  There  is  some 
obscurity  in  the  narrative  as  to  just  what  happened  to  these 
girls  while  on  board.  But  Columbus  seems  to  have  con- 
sidered them  a  bad  lot. 

On  the  following  day  the  Adelantado  went  ashore.  He 
began  to  dictate  to  his  clerk  the  information  he  could  gather 
about  the  coast.  But  at  the  sight  of  pen  and  paper  the 
Indians  took  fright,  thinking  it  was  magic.  They  would  not 
return  until  their  medicine-men  had  made  some  counter- 
magic  and  had  burned  a  lot  of  protective  incense.  Now, 
in  reverence  for  the  black  art,  the  Europeans  of  that  day 
were  not  a  bit  behind  the  naked  inhabitants  of  America. 

Marco  Polo  in  describing  a  vague  country  which  he  calls 
Soccotera,  had  written:  "The  inhabitants  deal  more  in 
sorcery  and  witchcraft  than  any  other  people,  although  for- 
bidden by  their  archbishop,  who  excommunicates  and 
anathematizes  them  for  this  sin.  ...  If  any  vessel 
belonging  to  a  pirate  should  injure  one  of  theirs,  they  do  not 
fail  to  lay  him  under  a  spell,  so  that  he  cannot  proceed  on 
his  cruise  until  he  has  made  satisfaction  for  the  damage. 
.  .  .  They  can  in  like  manner  cause  the  sea  to  become  calm, 
and  at  their  will  can  raise  tempests,  occasion  shipwrecks  and 
produce  many  other  extraordinary  effects  that  need  not  be 

Certainly  some  of  Columbus's  crew  had  read  this  narrative. 
And  of  course  this  made  the  cause  of  all  their  mishaps  very 
clear.  They  were  in  the  neighborhood  of  Soccotera.  No 
matter  what  form  the  hospitality  of  the  rough  sailors  took 
toward  the  two  hostages,  the  young  ladies  were  undoubtedly 
lucky  to  escape  from  the  ships  without  having  been  burned  as 

On  the  5th  of  October,  the  squadron  sailed  from  La 

THE    COMING    OF    THE    WHITE    MAN  137 

Huestra  and  its  magic,  along  the  shore  of  Costa  Rica,  to 
Almirante  Bay  and  Chiriqui  Lagoon,  the  limit  of  the  present 
Republic  of  Panama. 

Here  the  Spaniards  found  the  natives  wearing  ornaments 
of  pure  gold  and  also  masonry  walls.  The  first  they  had  seen 
which  even  distantly  resembled  civilized  architecture. 

In  one  place  they  secured  seventeen  plates  of  gold,  worth 
one  hundred  and  fifty  ducats,  for  three  hawks'  bells.  At 
another  village  they  got  nineteen  gold  ornaments.  And 
always  the  natives  told  them  of  richer  countries  down  the 
coast.  All  these  vague  stories — they  must  have  been  much 
distorted  by  the  lack  of  knowledge  of  the  native  language — 
confirmed  Columbus  in  the  delusion  that  he  was  nearing 
Cathay.  His  report  is  full  of  a  country  which  the  natives 
called  "Ciguare,"  where  gold  was  as  common  as  mud,  where 
even  the  beggar  women  wore  strings  of  priceless  pearls,  and 
where  there  were  great  ships  like  his  own  and  a  widespread 
commerce.  "I  should  be  content,"  he  wrote,  "if  a  tithe  of 
this  which  I  hear  is  true.  .  .  .  They  also  say  that  the  sea 
surrounds  Ciguare  and  that  ten  days  journey  from  thence  is 
the  river  Ganges."  They  told  him  that  by  proceeding  on 
his  course  he  would  soon  come  to  "  a  narrow  place  between 
two  seas."  Of  course  they  were  speaking  of  the  Isthmus. 
But  Columbus,  with  a  fixed  idea,  interpreted  this  to  mean  the 
long  sought  "straits  of  Malacca."  His  writings  show  that 
he  thought  he  was  coasting  down  one  side  of  a  long  penin- 
sular, like  his  native  Italy,  and  that  he  would  soon  round 
the  end  of  it  and  sail  into  the  fabulous  water  of  the  Indies. 

Despite  the  desire  of  his  crew  to  stop  and  explore  this 
country  so  rich  in  gold,  Columbus  persistently  held  his  course 
along  the  coast. 

Washington  Irving,  whose  extravagant  admiration  for 
Columbus  makes  him  grasp  every  opportunity  to  eulogize 
him,  makes  this  comment : 

138  PANAMA 

"  Nothing  could  evince  more  clearly  his  generous  ambition, 
than  hurrying  in  this  brief  manner  along  a  coast  where  wealth 
was  to  be  gathered  at  every  step,  for  the  purpose  of  seeking  a 
strait  which,  however  it  might  produce  vast  benefit  for  man- 
kind, could  yield  little  else  to  himself  than  the  glory  of  the 

But  the  insistence  with  which  the  great  navigator  de- 
manded the  recognition  of  his  titles,  the  payment  of  all  his 
perquisites — in  striking  contrast  to  the  modesty  of  such  men 
as  di  Gama — forces  one  to  doubt  if  Columbus  was  so  dis- 
interested as  Irving  would  have  us  believe.  His  arrogance 
and  cruelty  had  made  him  impossible  as  a  governor  of  Santo 
Domingo,  his  pride  and  greed  had  destroyed  his  original 
popularity  at  the  Spanish  court.  The  discovery  of  the 
straits — the  quick  route  to  the  Spice  Islands  and  Cathay — 
meant  not  only  personal  rehabilitation,  reinvestment  in  his 
high  dignities,  but  also  restoration  of  his  right  to  lay  tribute 
on  the  lands  he  had  discovered.  And  Columbus,  more  than 
the  stay-at-home  official  of  Spain,  foresaw  what  a  gigantic 
income  this  would  grow  to  be.  He  had  come  on  this  cruise 
to  load  his  caravels  not  with  gold — with  vindication.  He 
needed  the  Straits. 

On  November  2d,  he  came  to  the  magnificent  harbor  which 
he  named  Puerto  Bello.  They  were  stormbound  here  for  a 
week,  then  continued  eastward,  past  Nombre  de  Dios. 
Rough  weather  forced  them  again  to  seek  shelter  in  a  harbor, 
which  they  called  Puerto  de  Bastimentos. 

The  ships  were  in  a  pitiful  state.  Besides  the  strain  from 
the  continued  storms,  they  had  been  eaten  by  ship  worm,  the 
pest  of  tropical  waters,  until  they  leaked  like  sieves.  The 
" teredo"  is  a  jelly-like  animal,  about  the  size  of  a  man's 
finger.  It  is  all  soft  except  its  formidable  mandibles  with 
which  it  penetrates  the  hardest  wood  as  easily  as  cheese. 
They  swarm  in  these  waters  and  no  wooden  vessel  unpro- 

THE    COMING    OF    THE    WHITE   MAN  139 

tected  by  copper  can  resist  them.  The  Spaniards  described 
them  as  "  worms,"  but  they  are  a  subdivision  of  the  mol- 

Having  somewhat  repaired  his  ships,  the  Admiral  again 
set  sail,  again  to  be  driven  to  shelter  by  a  storm.  This 
harbor  was  so  small  they  called  it  El  Retrete,  or  The  Closet. 
The  natives  at  first  were  friendly.  Irving  says  they  "received 
them  into  their  dwellings  with  their  accustomed  hospitality, 
but  the  rough  adventurers,  instigated  by  avarice  and  lust, 
soon  committed  excesses  which  aroused  their  generous  hosts 
to  revenge."  The  ships  were  anchored  so  close  to  shore  that 
Columbus  could  not  keep  his  men  on  board.  There  were  a 
number  of  brawls  and  at  last  it  was  necessary  to  disperse  the 
natives  with  the  ship's  cannon. 

Columbus  had  now  overlapped  the  voyage  of  Bastides. 
Spaniards  had  followed  the  coast  westward  from  Trinidad 
and  southeastward  from  Cape  Honduras  past  Nombre  de 
Dios.  If  Columbus  knew  the  details  of  the  earlier  voyage  he 
knew  that  his  dream  of  the  Strait  had  been  an  illusion.  But 
there  is  nothing  in  his  writings  to  show  that  he  did  know  it. 

However  his  caravels  were  scarcely  seaworthy,  his  sailors 
were  mutinous,  and  he  was  sick.  They  were  all — ships  and 
men — worn  to  the  breaking  point  by  the  long  and  bitter 
struggle  with  adverse  winds. 

On  the  5th  of  December,  Columbus  sailed  out  of  Puerto 
El  Retrete  and  turned  back.  If  he  could  not  win  the  fame 
he  had  sought  the  gold  was  not  to  be  despised.  He  had 
hardly  set  out  on  the  return  voyage  when  the  seasons  changed 
and  the  wind  completely  shifted.  For  three  months  they  had 
longed  for  such  a  wind.  Now,  as  though  truly  bewitched,  it 
turned  just  as  they  did.  Off  Puerto  Bello  they  ran  into  the 
worst  hurricane  they  had  yet  encountered.  To  add  to  the 
terror  of  the  phosphorescent  waters,  the  blinding  lightning, 
they  were  nearly  swamped  by  a  waterspout.  The  sailors 

140  PANAMA 

almost  gave  up  hope.  As  a  last  chance  they  recited  portions 
of  the  Gospel  of  St.  John.  It  proved  a  more  powerful  charm 
than  that  of  the  girl  hostages  from  La  Huesta,  and  the  water- 
spout turned  aside  and  left  them  unharmed. 

All  during  Christmas  week  they  were  buffeted  by  this 
storm.  They  were  further  disspirited  by  a  school  of  sharks 
which  persistently  followed  them.  So  troublesome  and 
changeable  were  the  winds  and  tides  that  Columbus  named 
the  isthmus,  "La  Costa  de  los  Contrastes." 

But  on  Epiphany  Sunday  they  came  to  a  sheltered  harbor 
which  they  called  Santa  Maria  de  Belen — St.  Mary  of 

While  the  sailors  were  busy  repairing  the  ships  the  Adelan- 
tado  with  a  handful  of  soldiers  began  the  quest  for  gold.  On 
the  9th  of  January  they  visited  the  Cacique  whom  they  called 
Quiban.  They  traded  some  European  trumpery  for  some 
valuable  gold  ornaments  and  persuaded  him  to  visit  the  ships. 
There  they  courteously  traded  a  handful  of  hawks'  bells  for 
his  remaining  ornaments. 

On  the  24th  of  January  a  typical  Panamanian  freshet 
nearly  ended  the  expedition.  The  Rio  Belen  rose  so  rapidly 
that  it  tore  the  ships  from  their  anchors,  drove  them  against 
each  other  and  carried  away  the  foremast  of  the  flagship. 
In  the  hope  of  changing  his  luck,  Columbus  named  the 
highest  mountain  he  could  see  after  his  own  saint — San 
Christoval.  He  says  in  his  letter  that  the  peak  rose  far  above 
the  clouds.  The  clouds  must  have  hung  very  low  in  those 

Early  in  February  the  Adelantado  with  sixty-five  men  went 
up  the  coast  to  the  Rio  Veraguas,  the  seat  of  the  Cacique 
Quiban,  who  gave  him  some  guides  to  the  gold  fields.  They 
went  six  leagues  into  the  interior  and  found  rich  placer  gold. 
Columbus  wrote,  on  the  basis  of  their  report,  that  he  had 
seen  more  signs  of  gold  here  in  a  few  days,  than  in  the  four 

THE    COMING    OF    THE    WHITE   MAN  141 

years  he  had  spent  in  Santo  Domingo.  He  was  convinced 
that  he  had  reached  the  Aurea  Chersoneus  of  the  Ancients. 

"  Josephus  thinks,"  he  wrote,  "that  this  gold  of  the  Chron- 
icles and  the  Book  of  Kings  was  found  in  the  Aurea.  If  it 
were  so,  I  contend  that  these  mines  of  the  Aurea  are  identical 
with  those  of  Veragua.  David  in  his  will  left  3,000  quintals 
of  Indian  gold  to  Solomon,  to  assist  in  building  the  temple, 
and  according  to  Josephus  it  came  from  these  lands." 

He  decided  therefore  to  leave  the  Adelantado  with  eighty 
men  to  found  a  colony;  he  would  return  to  Spain  for  rein- 
forcements. Santo  Domingo  which  he  had  discovered  and 
settled  had  been  given  to  his  enemies.  The  king  refused  to 
recognize  his  title  to  the  pearl  coast.  Cheated  of  his  other 
possession,  he  would  begin  again  and  create  a  new  vice- 

Work  was  begun  at  once.  A  few  thatch  cottages  were 
built  on  a  little  eminence  near  the  mouth  of  the  Rio  Belen. 
One  of  the  four  caravels,  stocked  with  provisions,  was  to 
be  left  to  the  colonists.  Bananas,  cocoanuts,  plantains  and 
other  fruit  grew  in  abundance.  The  river  and  sea  were  full 
of  fish.  There  appeared  to  be  no  danger  of  famine.  The 
Indians  were  friendly. 

When  these  arrangements  had  been  completed,  a  new 
obstacle  arose.  The  dry  season  had  set  in  and  the  river  had 
fallen  to  such  an  extent  that  he  could  not  get  the  three 
caravels  out  across  the  bar  at  the  mouth  of  the  river.  He  was 
forced  to  wait  until  a  rain  would  cause  a  new  freshet. 

Meanwhile  Diego  Mendez,  one  of  the  most  daring  and 
venturesome  of  these  adventurers,  began  to  suspect  that 
Quiban,  the  Indian  chief,  was  plotting  their  destruction. 
Whether  or  not  there  was  any  foundation  for  this  suspicion 
it  is  now  impossible  to  determine.  Mendez  seems  to  have 
persuaded  the  Adelantado  without  much  trouble;  it  was 
harder  to  convince  Columbus  of  such  treachery.  But  at  last 

142  PANAMA 

it  was  decided  to  strike  before  the  Indians  had  matured  their 
plot,  and  on  the  30th  of  March,  Bartholomew  Columbus  took 
the  warpath  with  seventy-five  men.  They  approached 
Quiban  village  without  being  discovered.  The  main  body 
remained  hidden  in  the  woods,  with  instructions  to  rush  out 
as  soon  as  they  heard  an  arquebuse.  They  were  to  try  to 
capture  as  many  prisoners  as  possible. 

The  Adelantado,  having  stationed  his  men  thus,  entered 
the  village  with  Mendez  and  four  others.  Quiban  came  out 
of  his  house  and  greeted  them  courteously.  After  a  mo- 
ment's conversation  the  Adelantado  gave  the  signal,  Mendez 
fired  his  arquebuse  and  they  all  fell  on  the  Cacique.  While 
they  were  tying  him  up  the  main  force  hurried  up  and  cap- 
tured about  fifty  people,  old  and  young,  women  and  children 
and  half  a  dozen  of  the  elders  of  the  tribe.  The  Indians  were 
completely  taken  by  surprise  and  were  overpowered  without 

The  prisoners  were  bundled  into  the  boats  to  be  taken  to 
the  ships  as  hostages  and  eventually  sold  as  slaves.  Quiban 
was  especially  entrusted  to  the  care  of  one  Juan  Sanchez, 
who  swore  that  if  the  Cacique  escaped  they  might  pluck  out 
his  beard,  hair  by  hair.  However,  the  Cacique  did  escape. 
He  worked  some  of  his  bonds  loose  and  dove  overboard, 
preferring  the  society  of  the  sharks  to  that  of  the  Spaniards. 
Whether  or  not  Sanchez  lost  his  beard  is  not  recorded.  The 
Adelantado's  loot  was  considerably  over  $1,000  worth  of 

The  Spaniards  hoped  that  this  "lesson"  would  strike 
terror  into  the  hearts  of  the  natives.  They  believed  that 
Quiban  was  dead,  but  even  if,  tied  hand  and  foot,  he  had 
managed  to  swim  safe  to  shore,  they  thought  that  knowing 
that  all  his  family  were  held  as  hostages  would  discourage 
any  plan  of  revenge. 

A  fortunate  freshet  lifted  the  three  caravels  over  the  bar 

TEE    COMING    OF    THE    WHITE    MAN  143 

and  Columbus,  taking  leave  of  his  brother  and  the  little 
colony,  started  on  the  long  voyage  home.  But  adverse  winds, 
soon  growing  to  a  gale,  forced  him  to  anchor  just  outside  the 
river's  mouth.  On  the  6th  of  April  he  sent  in  a  small  boat, 
under  the  command  of  Diego  Tristan,  to  get  some  fresh  water. 
Tristan  never  returned. 

Quiban  had  not  drowned.  And  once  on  shore  he  set  about 
for  revenge  in  earnest.  He  gathered  all  his  tribesmen  and 
allies,  and  within  a  few  days  after  Columbus  had  left  the 
harbor,  made  an  attack  on  the  colony.  The  Indians  crept 
up  under  cover  of  the  jungle  which  grew  close  to  the  settle- 
ment. They  rushed  out,  catching  the  colonists  completely  off 
their  guard.  The  Adelantado  had  his  arms  at  hand  and  with 
seven  or  eight  men  held  the  savages  at  bay  until  the  rest  of  his 
men  could  rally.  With  the  aid  of  their  bloodhounds,  of  which 
the  Indians  were  even  more  afraid  than  of  firearms,  they 
repulsed  this  first  attack.  One  Spaniard  and  a  number  of 
Indians  were  killed. 

Tristan  arrived  in  his  boat  during  the  mele*e,  but  seems  to 
have  taken  no  part  in  it.  As  soon  as  the  Indians  disappeared 
in  the  woods,  he  proceeded  up  stream,  against  the  orders 
of  the  Adelantado,  to  fill  his  water  casks.  The  river  was 
deep  and  narrow,  overhung  with  trees.  About  a  league  above 
the  village,  war  whoops  rang  out  from  both  shores,  the  woods 
seemed  to  rain  javelins.  Canoes  full  of  naked  Indians  darted 
out  at  them  from  all  sides.  One  man,  Juan  de  Noya,  a 
cooper  from  Seville,  dove  for  it  and,  being  able  to  swim  a 
long  distance  under  water,  escaped  to  tell  the  tale. 

The  colony  was  completely  disorganized.  This  sort  of 
warfare,  eighty  of  them  against  myriads,  was  not  the  sort  of 
gold  hunting  they  had  bargained  for.  Above  all  they  feared 
that  the  Almirante  would  sail  for  Spain  and  leave  them  to 
their  fate.  Defying  the  Adelantado  they  mutinously  tried 
to  put  to  sea  in  their  caravel.  But  the  water  had  fallen 

144  PANAMA 

again  and  they  could  not  get  it  across  the  bar.  They  tried 
the  small  boats,  but  a  gale  was  blowing  in  from  the  sea  and 
piling  up  an  impassable  surf  on  the  bar. 

The  Indians,  exulting  over  their  massacre  of  Tristan's  crew, 
were  blowing  their  conch  shells  in  the  forest  preparing  for  a 
new  attack.  The  bodies  of  Tristan  and  his  men  came  float- 
ing down  the  river.  About  them  circled  and  screamed  and 
fought  a  great  cloud  of  vultures. 

The  fear  which  had  at  first  driven  them  to  mutiny  now 
drove  the  colonists  back  to  discipline.  The  Adelantado  was 
about  the  only  one  with  a  cool  head  on  his  shoulders.  Be- 
lieving it  impossible  to  hold  the  scattered  houses  of  the 
village,  he  changed  his  base  to  an  open  place  on  the  beach. 
There  they  erected  a  small  fort  of  casks  and  boxes.  They 
took  two  falconets  from  the  caravel.  These  little  cannon 
had  a  very  wholesome  effect  on  the  Indians.  And  in  this 
new  position  the  Spaniards  had  nothing  to  fear  as  long  as 
their  ammunition  and  provisions  held  out. 

Affairs  had  not  been  going  any  better  aboard  the  caravels 
in  the  offing.  The  hostages  who  had  been  captured  in  the 
raid  on  Quiban's  village  had  managed  to  break  out  of  the 
hold  of  the  flagship  and  most  of  them  jumped  overboard 
and  had  swam  ashore.  The  few  who  were  recaptured  had 
promptly  strangled  themselves.  This  not  only  knocked  a 
big  hole  in  the  expected  profit  of  these  slave  dealers,  but 
Columbus  rightly  felt  that  the  arrival  of  the  hostages  on 
shore  would  make  the  Indians  more  determined  on  war  than 
ever.  He  became  immensely  worried  as  day  after  day 
Tristan  failed  to  return.  He  had  only  one  small  boat  left 
in  the  fleet  and  he  did  not  dare  to  risk  losing  it  in  the  pounding 
surf  on  the  bar. 

At  last  a  pilot  named  Pedro  Ledesma,  inspired  by  example 
of  the  escaping  Indians,  volunteered  to  swim  the  surf. 
"Surely,"  he  said,  "if  they  dare  to  venture  so  much  to  pro- 

TEE    COMING    OF    TEE    WHITE    MAN  145 

cure  their  individual  liberties,  I  ought  to  brave  at  least  a  part 
of  this  danger  to  save  the  lives  of  so  many  comrades." 

The  small  boat  took  him  as  near  the  surf  as  it  dared. 
Ledesma  stripped  and  went  overboard  into  the  turmoil  of 
the  surf,  and  won  safe  to  shore.  He  found  the  little  garrison 
in  sore  straits  and  they  were  overjoyed  to  find  that  the 
caravels  had  not  yet  sailed.  Ledesma  risked  his  life  again 
in  the  surf  to  take  the  sad  news  back  to  the  Almirante. 

It  was  indeed  disspiriting  news  for  Columbus.  He  could 
spare  no  men  to  reenforce  the  garrison.  There  was  no 
alternative  to  giving  up  the  colony.  His  own  position  was 
by  no  means  devoid  of  danger.  Any  moment  his  crazy  little 
ships  might  fall  apart,  so  serious  had  been  the  attack  of  the 
teredo.  He  was  riding  at  anchor  in  a  gale  off  a  lee  shore. 
Any  moment  his  frayed  cables  might  part.  His  own  sickness 
wore  heavily  upon  him.  His  mind  seems  to  have  weakened 
under  the  strain.  At  least  it  was  at  this  period  that  he  had 
the  vision  he  so  solemnly  recounts  in  the  "Lettera  rarissima." 

" Wearied  and  sighing,"  he  wrote,  "I  fell  into  a  slumber, 
when  I  heard  a  piteous  voice  saying  to  me.  'Oh  fool  and 
slow  to  believe  and  serve  thy  God,  who  is  the  God  of  all! 
What  did  he  more  for  Moses,  or  for  his  servant  David,  than 
he  has  done  for  thee?  .  .  .  When  he  saw  thee  of  fitting 
age  he  made  thy  name  to  resound  marvellously  throughout 
the  earth.  ...  Of  the  gates  of  the  ocean  sea,  shut  up 
with  such  mighty  chains,  he  delivered  to  thee  the  keys;  the 
Indies,  those  wealthy  regions  of  the  world,  he  gave  thee 
for  thine  own,  and  empowered  thee  to  dispose  of  them  to 
others,  according  to  thy  pleasure.  What  did  he  more  for 
the  great  people  of  Israel  when  he  led  them  forth  from 
Egypt?  .  .  .  He  has  many  and  vast  inheritances  yet  in 
reserve.  Fear  not  to  seek  them.  Thine  age  shall  be  no 
impediment  for  any  great  undertaking.  Abraham  was  above 
a  hundred  years  when  he  begot  Isaac.  And  was  Sarah 

146  PANAMA 

youthful?  .  .  .  Who  has  afflicted  thee  so  much  and  so 
many  times?  God — or  the  world?  The  privileges  and 
promises  which  God  hath  made  thee,  he  hath  never  broken; 
neither  hath  he  said,  after  having  received  thy  services,  that 
his  meaning  was  different  and  to  be  understood  in  another 
sense.  He  performs  to  the  very  letter.' ' 

"I  heard  all  this,"  Columbus  adds,  "as  one  almost  dead, 
and  had  no  power  to  reply  to  words  so  true." 

Irving  writes  in  regard  to  this  vision:  "He  is  not  to  be 
measured  by  the  same  standards  with  ordinary  men.  .  .  . 
The  artless  manner  in  which,  in  his  letter  to  his  sovereigns, 
he  mingles  up  the  rhapsodies  and  dreams  of  his  imagination 
with  simple  facts  and  sound  practical  observations,  pouring 
them  forth  with  a  kind  of  scriptural  solemnity  and  poetry  of 
language,  is  one  of  the  most  striking  illustrations  of  a  char- 
acter richly  compounded  of  extraordinary  and  apparently 
contradictory  elements." 

Justin  Winsor,  in  his  biography  of  Columbus,  is  not  so  kind. 
He  gives  a  rather  ironical  rendering  of  this  portion  of  the 
Admiral's  letter  and  dismisses  it  summarily  as  either  an 
elaborate  hoax  intended  to  remind  his  sovereigns  of  their 
broken  promises  and  to  frighten  them  into  restoring  his 
honors  or  a  plain  case  of  paranoiac  meglomania.  It  is  prob- 
able that  King  Ferdinand  put  the  first  of  these  interpreta- 
tions on  it. 

Von  Humboldt  with  probably  a  juster  insight  speaks  of 
this  vision  as  showing  the  wreck  of  a  proud  mind  broken 
down  by  the  weight  of  dead  hopes. 

Fair  weather  followed  this  vision.  The  Adelantado  was 
able  to  bring  off  all  his  men  and  most  of  his  provisions  in 
small  boats.  They  had  to  abandon  the  caravel.  The 
Admiral  coasted  eastward  to  the  Gulf  of  San  Bias,  hoping  to 
get  free  of  the  currents.  Here  another  ship  went  to  pieces 
and  with  the  remnant  of  his  men  crowded  on  two  flimsy 

THE    COMING    OF    TEE    WHITE    MAN  147 

boats  he  steered  north  toward  Santo  Domingo  and  out  of  the 
story  of  the  Isthmus. 

Desperate  as  had  been  his  misfortunes  along  the  coast  of 
Panama  he  had  to  face  worse  ones.  Unable  to  reach  Santo 
Domingo,  he  had  to  run  his  sinking  ships  ashore  on  Jamaica. 
There  were  months  of  waiting  for  rescue,  and  at  last  a  neg- 
lected death  in  Valladolid,  Spain,  on  the  20th  of  May,  1506. 

The  historians  of  to-day  are  engaged  in  a  bitter  contro- 
versy over  the  character  of  Columbus.  Irving  set  the  fashion 
among  modern  writers  of  indiscriminate  praise.  Roselly  de 
Lorgues  and  a  few  ecstatic  French  writers  are  trying  to 
persuade  the  Roman  Church  to  canonize  him.  Their  praise 
is  even  more  fulsome  than  Irving's  statement  that  "the 
finger  of  the  historian  will  find  it  difficult  to  point  to  a  single 
blemish  in  his  moral  character."  They  have  gone  to  the 
length  of  developing  an  elaborate  argument,  which  lacks 
nothing  but  substantiating  facts,  to  prove  that  Columbus 
married  the  mother  of  his  son  Fernando. 

Henry  Harrisse  has  given  us  much  light  on  the  subject  by 
his  tireless  collecting  of  original  documents.  The  facts  are 
not  at  all  as  pleasing  as  the  "  canonizers"  would  desire.  Dr. 
Shea,  an  eminent  Catholic  historian,  writes,  "He  seems  to 
have  succeeded  in  attracting  but  few  men  to  him,  who  ad- 
hered loyally  to  his  cause.  Those  under  him  were  con- 
stantly rebellious  and  mutinous;  those  over  him  found  him 
impracticable.  To  array  all  these  as  enemies,  inspired  by  a 
satanic  hostility  to  a  great  servant  of  God,  is  to  ask  too 
much  for  our  belief." 

Justin  Winsor,  one  of  the  foremost  of  our  historians,  has 
applied  the  modern  critical  method,  the  studying  of  original 
documents,  to  Columbus.  He  brings  forward  strong  evi- 
dence of  many  unlovely  characteristics.  Winsor  accuses  him 
of  inordinate  greed,  shows  that  he  had  a  penchant  for  slave 
stealing  that  even  Queen  Isabella  could  not  control,  convicts 

148  PANAMA 

him  of  having  at  one  time  tried  to  force  his  crew  to  swear 
to  false  statements  about  the  land  they  had  discovered. 
Winsor  certainly  brings  in  overwhelming  evidence  of  the 
Admiral's  appalling  conceit.  In  his  treatise  on  the  prophets 
Columbus  wrote,  "  Human  reason,  mathematics  and  maps 
have  served  me  in  no  wise.  What  I  have  accomplished  is 
simply  the  fulfillment  of  the  prophecy  of  David."  This 
overweaning  vanity,  this  pretence  of  being  the  special  envoy 
from  on  High  is,  according  to  Winsor,  the  reason  he  was  un- 
able to  keep  any  friends. 

Winsor's  long  attack  on  the  character  of  Columbus  ends 
with  this  paragraph : 

"  We  have  seen  a  pitiful  man  meet  a  pitiful  death.  Hardly 
a  name  in  profane  history  is  more  august  than  his.  Hardly 
another  character  in  the  world's  record  has  made  so  little 
of  its  opportunities.  His  discovery  was  a  blunder,  his 
blunder  a  new  world;  the  New  World  is  his  monument!  Its 
discoverer  might  have  been  its  father;  he  proved  its  despoiler. 
He  might  have  given  its  young  days  such  a  benignity  as  the 
world  likes  to  associate  with  a  maker;  he  left  it  a  legacy  of 
devastation  and  crime.  He  might  have  been  an  unselfish 
promoter  of  geographical  science;  he  proved  a  rabid  seeker 
for  gold  and  a  vice-royalty.  He  might  have  won  converts  to 
the  cause  of  Christ  by  the  kindness  of  his  spirit;  he  gained 
the  execrations  of  the  good  angels.  He  might,  like  Las 
Casas,  have  rebuked  the  fiendishness  of  his  contemporaries; 
he  set  them  an  example  of  perverted  belief.  The  triumph  of 
Barcelona  led  down  to  the  ignominy  of  Valladolid,  with  every 
step  in  the  degradation  palpable  and  resultant." 

Fortunately  it  is  no  more  necessary  to  accept  without 
qualification  this  dark  picture  which  Mr.  Winsor  draws  than 
to  believe  that  the  great  voyager  was  a  model  of  all  the  do- 
mestic and  ecclesiastical  virtues  as  Irving  and  the  "canon- 
izers"  would  have  us. 

THE    COMING    OF   TEE    WHITE    MAN  149 

Columbus  lived  in  an  age  when  the  vices,  Mr.  Winsor  so 
energetically  denounces,  were  as  common  as  freckles.  And 
the  virtues,  for  the  absence  of  which  he  denounces  Columbus, 
were  just  as  rare  as  they  are  to-day.  The  cruelties  charged 
against  Columbus  were  no  worse  than  those  of  their  most 
Catholic  majesties,  Ferdinand  and  Isabella,  against  the  Moors. 
He  drove  a  sharp  bargain  with  the  throne  and  made  himself 
very  unpleasant  when  deprived  of  what  he  thought  was  due 
him.  His  famous  lawsuits  were  just  the  kind  we  have  to-day : 
efforts  to  get  what  his  friends  called  justice  and  his  enemies 
called  graft.  If  he  had  been  a  more  courteous  loser  he  would 
probably  have  lost  less.  The  worst  thing  proved  against  him 
is  his  lack  of  friends.  There  can,  I  think,  be  little  doubt  that 
his  character  was  unpleasant.  But  we  of  this  latter  day, 
who  do  not  have  to  serve  in  one  of  his  caravel,  nor  listen  to 
the  flow  of  his  petulant  temper,  are  free  to  give  him  in  ad- 
miration what  he  so  sadly  lacked  in  affection. 

The  wisest  word  I  have  found  in  this  controversy  is  in 
the  preface  of  John  Fiske's  "The  Discovery  of  America." 

"No  one  can  deny,"  he  writes,  "that  Las  Casas  was  a 
keen  judge  of  men,  or  that  his  standard  of  right  and  wrong 
was  quite  as  lofty  as  anyone  has  reached  in  our  own  time. 
He  had  a  much  more  intimate  knowledge  of  Columbus  than 
any  modern  historian  can  hope  to  acquire,  and  he  always 
speaks  of  him  with  warm  admiration  and  respect.  But  how 
could  Las  Casas  ever  have  respected  the  feeble,  mean- 
spirited  driveller  whose  portrait  Mr.  Winsor  asks  us  to  accept 
as  that  of  the  discoverer  of  America?" 



THE  reports  which  Columbus  brought  home  from  his  last 
voyage,  his  stories  of  rich  goldfields,  won  for  the  Isthmus 
the  glittering  name  of  Castilla  del  Oro.  Expeditions  to 
Nueva  Andalucfa,  as  the  north  coast  of  South  America  was 
called,  came  home  with  even  richer  cargoes.  Cristoval 
Guerra  and  Pedro  Alonzo  Nino  returned  in  1500,  "so  laden 
with  pearls,"  according  to  an  old  chronicler,  "that  they 
were  in  a  maner  with  every  mariner  as  common  as  chaff e." 

Yet  many  years  passed  before  any  serious  effort  was 
made  to  colonize  the  Mainland.  The  Spanish  king  had  his 
hands  more  than  full  with  domestic  wars.  Not  until  1508 
did  the  matter  force  itself  on  the  attention  of  the  Council 
of  the  Indies. 

Herrera,  the  official  historian  of  the  Court,  writes  (trans- 
lation of  Capt.  John  Stevens,  1725):  "The  king  was  very 
intent  upon  having  Colonies  settled  there,  and  none  was  so 
ready  to  perform  it  as  Alonso  de  Ojeda,  but  he  not  being 
rich,  could  not  contract  with  the  King,  unless  supported  by 
some  other.  John  de  la  Cosa  offer'd  to  be  assisting  with  his 
Estate,  and  accordingly  went  to  Court,  relying  on  the  Favour 
of  John  Rodriquez  de  Fonseca,  Bishop  of  Palencia,  who  had 
Management  of  the  Affairs  of  the  Indies  and  was  a  Friend 
to  Alonso  de  Ojeda." 

It  would  have  been  difficult  for  His  Catholic  Majesty  to 
put  finger  on  a  man  more  fitted  for  New  World  adventure 
than  this  same  Alonso  de  Ojeda.  He  had  been  born  in 
Cuenca,  of  the  inevitably  poor  but  honest  parents.  He  had 



EL   REAL   DE   STA.    MARIA. 


served  as  a  page,  then  as  an  esquire  in  the  retinue  of  the 
Duke  of  Medina  Celi.  Under  the  tutelage  of  this  flower  of 
Spanish  nobility  he  had  been  through  the  bitterest  cam- 
paigns of  the  Moorish  wars.  He  was  short  and  stocky,  but 
graceful;  he  excelled  in  the  arts  of  chivalric  wars.  He  was 
said  not  to  be  good  to  look  at,  but  men  adored  him.  When 
twenty-one  he  had  sailed  with  Columbus  on  his  second  voy- 
age. He  had  been  a  member  of  a  later  expedition  along  the 
coast  of  Nueva  Andalucfa.  and  had  lived  some  years  in  the 

Besides  his  own  experience,  and  as  a  counterbalance  to 
his  always  empty  purse,  he  had  a  wealth  of  friends.  It  was 
his  good  fortune,  as  Herrera  says,  to  have  for  friend  the  great 
Bishop  of  Palencia,  who  was  supreme  in  the  Council  of  the 

But  undoubtedly  his  greatest  asset  was  the  loyalty  of  the 
old  pilot  Juan  de  la  Cosa.  Peter  Martyr,  one  of  the  most 
trustworthy  of  the  contemporaneous  chroniclers  of  the  Dis- 
covery, says  that  the  navigators  of  the  day  valued  above  all 
other  maps  those  made  by  de  la  Cosa — "to  whom  these 
tracks  were  as  well  known  as  the  chambers  of  his  own 
house."  He  had  sailed  more  miles  in  the  Caribbean  Sea 
than  even  the  great  Almirante.  He  had  a  sagacious  head 
and  the  quiet  sort  of  bravery  which  was  badly  needed  to 
balance  the  dashing  impetuosity  of  Ojeda.  And  he  loved 
the  younger  man  with  a  fidelity  such  as  is  seldom  recounted 
in  the  stories  of  those  days.  If  the  king  had  been  making 
a  selection  solely  on  merit,  he  could  not  have  done  better 
than  to  choose  this  team. 

But  there  was  another  applicant  for  the  honor  of  colonizing 
the  Mainland — Don  Diego  de  Nicuesa.  He  had  the  ad- 
vantage over  Ojeda  of  being  not  only  much  richer  but  also 
the  more  polished.  He  held  the  high  courtly  office  of  Royal 
Carver.  He  wore  some  of  the  smartest  clothes  ever  seen  in 

152  PANAMA 

Madrid.  But  in  spite  of  his  dandified  manners  and  his 
popularity  with  the  ladies-in-waiting,  he  was  a  gentleman  of 
unquestioned  integrity  and  valor.  But  he  had  had  no  spe- 
cial schooling  for  the  bitter  hard  work  in  hand.  There  is 
not  much  of  good  which  can  be  said  of  Nicuesa.  Above  all, 
he  was  a  stubborn  fool,  but  he  was  not  white-livered  or  he 
would  never  have  sought  to  lay  aside  the  Royal  Carving 
Knife  for  the  sword  of  the  conqueror. 

For  a  long  time  Merit  and  Favoritism  balanced  each  other 
in  the  mind  of  the  king.  Being  able  to  make  no  choice,  he 
appointed  them  both.  Nicuesa  was  to  govern  the  Castilla 
del  Oro  from  Cape  Gracios  a  Dios  to  the  border  of  Nueva 
Andalucia.  Ojeda  was  given  Nueva  Andalucfa  from  Cape 
de  la  Vela  to  the  domains  of  Nicuesa.  The  dividing  line 
between  their  jurisdictions  the  wise  king  left  for  them  to 
fight  out. 

In  the  fall  of  1509,  the  two  governors  met  in  Santo  Dom- 
ingo and  began  the  quarrel.  The  king  had  further  compli- 
cated matters  for  them,  by  giving  them  as  a  joint  source  of 
provisions  the  Island  of  Jamaica.  This  embroiled  them  at 
once  with  Diego  Columbus,  the  son  of  the  Admiral,  who  was 
governor  of  Santo  Domingo  and  laid  claim  to  all  lands  dis- 
covered by  his  father.  There  could  be  no  question  that 
Jamaica  was  legally  his.  To  have  it  given  away  to  others 
made  him  so  hostile  to  the  interlopers  that  instead  of  help- 
ing them  with  ships  and  men,  as  the  king  had  ordered,  he 
did  all  he  could  to  embarrass  them.  Of  course  the  obvious 
thing  was  to  fan  the  fire  of  jealousy  between  the  two  gov- 

Alonso  de  Ojeda  soon  lost  his  head  and  challenged  his 
rival  to  a  duel.  However,  Juan  de  la  Cosa  was  able  to  avert 
bloodshed  and  under  his  mediation  they  agreed  to  accept 
the  Darien  River,  now  called  the  Atrato,  as  the  boundary 
between  their  provinces. 


But  the  peace  between  them  was  precarious.  Nicuesa, 
having  the  more  ready  money,  was  able  to  outbid  his  rival 
for  ships  and  equipment.  Two  things  counterbalanced  this 
advantage.  First  of  all  Ojeda's  experience  in  those  parts, 
his  reputation  and  personal  charm  attracted  to  his  standard 
the  pick  of  the  volunteers.  Among  them  were  two  who 
were  later  to  paint  their  names  in  great  letters  of  blood  and 
fire  on  the  chronicle  of  fame,  Hernado  Cortes  and  Francisco 
Pizarro.  At  the  last  moment  he  won  a  new  ally  in  the  per- 
son of  the  Bachelor  of  Law,  Martin  Fernandez  de  Enciso. 
This  clever  attorney  had  amassed  a  fortune  of  over  ten  thou- 
sand dollars  in  a  few  years  of  colonial  practice.  But  he  had 
not  realized  the  fact  that  it  is  easier  to  get  money  from 
adventurers  than  by  adventures.  In  an  evil  day  he  began 
to  listen  to  the  alluring  tales  of  Ojeda.  Like  so  many  an- 
other he  fell  under  the  man's  charm.  Under  the  promise  of 
being  made  "  Alcalde  Mayor  " — chief  justice — of  the  to-be- 
conquered  vice-royalty  of  Nueva  Andalucia,  he  turned  his 
bankbook  over  to  Ojeda. 

On  the  12th  of  November,  1509,  Ojeda  sailed  from  Santo 
Domingo,  with  two  ships,  two  brigantines,  three  hundred 
men  and  twelve  brood-mares.  At  the  last  moment  Hernando 
Cortes  was  disabled  by  a  wounded  knee  and  was  unable  to 
accompany  them.  A  few  days  later  Nicuesa  set  out  with 
two  large  ships,  two  brigantines,  a  caravel,  seven  hundred 
men  and  six  horses.  His  was  by  far  the  more  brilliant 
company,  but  they  were  mostly  fresh  from  Spain,  less 
hardened  for  the  work  before  them  than  his  rival's  com- 

It  was  a  remarkable  group  of  men,  these  discoverers  and 
conquistadores.  They  were  a  strong  breed,  whom  Irving 
calls  the  "  chivalry  of  the  sea."  The  old  feudal  manner  of 
life  was  breaking  down  in  Europe — the  expulsion  of  the 
Moors  from  Spain  had  been  the  last  great  crusade.  These 

154  PANAMA 

men  who  came  over  to  the  New  World  were  the  remnant  of 
the  feudal  nobility.  We  are  wont  to  think  of  them  as  pio- 
neers— progressives.  They  were  apostles  of  an  old  and  dying 
regime.  To  a  romancer  like  Washington  Irving  the  word 
" chivalry"  conjured  up  a  gorgeous  tapestry,  woven  of  brave 
deeds,  and  many  heroic  virtues.  To  the  modern  student  of 
history  the  word  means  an  epoch  when  famine  and  plague 
stalked  unchecked  over  Europe,  when  brute  passion,  un- 
refined by  any  shade  of  culture,  ruled  those  in  high  places, 
when  shameless  cruelty  was  the  daily  commonplace.  It  was 
an  age  of  Inquisitions  and  of  trial  by  tortures.  When  the 
finest  ladies  of  Madrid  enjoyed  the  "divertissement"  of  an 
auto  de  fe.  An  era,  the  passing  of  which  no  sane  man  could 
regret.  These  empire-founders,  compared  to  the  great  men 
of  the  dawning  Renaissance,  were  black  reactionaries.  Their 
day  had  passed  at  home;  to  the  west  they  brought  all  the  old 
barbaric  morality  of  medievalism,  all  the  religious  intoler- 
ance of  the  Dark  Ages.  The  one  man  who  stands  out  in  the 
early  history  of  America  as  touched  with  the  new  Humanism 
which  was  illuminating  Europe — Las  Casas — was  stoned  by 
the  conquistadores. 

These  men  who  sailed  from  Santo  Domingo  four  centuries 
ago  were  of  a  type  hard  to  sympathize  with  to-day.  Bloody 
from  their  infernal  massacres  they  gave  fanatical  thanks  to 
the  Holy  Virgin.  With  stolen  gold,  the  prize  of  rapine  and 
slaughter,  they  adorned  the  Crucifix.  From  silver,  dug  by 
the  defenceless  women  and  children  whom  they  scourged 
down  into  their  deadly  mines,  they  hammered  out  magnifi- 
cent vessels  for  the  service  of  the  Mass.  They  wore  some 
fair  lady's  gage  on  their  helmets,  and  committed  the  vilest 
outrages  on  women.  They  were  insanely  courageous,  and 
afraid  of  the  dark.  They  were  never  daunted  by  real  diffi- 
culties, they  trembled  before  the  croaking  of  a  fortune-teller. 
They  were  more  often  defeated  by  their  own  petty  jealousies, 


or  the  treachery  of  trusted  comrades,  than  by  the  innumer- 
able enemy. 

All  these  contradictory  elements  seem  to  have  focused  in 
Alonso  de  Ojeda.  The  Bishop  of  Palencia  had  given  him  a 
miraculous  portrait  of  the  Virgin.  He  carried  it  in  the  belief 
that  it  made  him  invulnerable.  It  is  only  the  united  voices 
of  many  witnesses  which  make  it  possible  to  believe  that  he 
actually  lived  through  the  innumerable  adventures  which 
make  up  his  biography.  But  we  have  here  to  do  only  with 
that  chapter  of  his  life  which  affected  the  Isthmus. 

In  due  time  his  little  fleet  touched  the  mainland — his  as 
yet  unconquered  vice-royalty — near  the  present  city  of 
Carthagena,  in  Colombia.  He  went  ashore  with  part  of 
his  force  and  at  once  set  about  establishing  his  authority. 
There  was  the  ordinary  formality  of  waving  the  Spanish 
flag,  erecting  a  cross  and  so  forth.  The  few  white  men 
who  had  previously  visited  this  coast  had  come  to  trade. 
The  Indians  crowded  down  on  the  shore  with  hospitable 
intention.  Having  satisfied  his  own  idea  of  taking  posses- 
sion, Ojeda  turned  his  attention  to  the  natives.  He  ordered 
some  of  his  friars,  who  had  come  to  look  after  the  spiritual 
welfare  of  the  new  domains,  to  read  aloud  the  following 
proclamation.  This  curious  treatise  had  been  drawn  up  by 
learned  divines  at  home  and  with  slight  alterations  was 
employed  by  the  other  conquistadores  under  similar  circum- 
stances : 

"I,  Alonso  de  Ojeda,  servant  of  the  high  and  mighty 
kings  of  Castile  and  Leon,  civilizers  of  barbarous  nations, 
their  messenger  and  captain,  notify  and  make  known  to 
you,  in  the  best  way  I  can,  that  God  our  Lord,  one  and 
eternal,  created  the  heavens  and  earth,  and  one  man  and 
one  woman,  from  whom  you,  and  we,  and  all  the  people  of 
the  earth,  were  and  are  descendants,  procreated,  and  all 
those  who  shall  come  after  us;  but  the  vast  number  of  gen- 

156  PANAMA 

erations  which  have  proceeded  from  them  in  the  course  of 
more  than  five  thousand  years  that  have  elapsed  since  the 
creation  of  the  world,  made  it  necessary  that  some  of  the 
human  race  should  disperse  in  one  direction,  and  some  in 
another,  and  that  they  should  divide  themselves  into  many 
kingdoms  and  provinces,  as  they  could  not  sustain  and 
preserve  themselves  in  one  alone.  All  these  people  were 
given  in  charge,  by  God  our  Lord,  to  one  person,  named 
Saint  Peter,  who  was  thus  made  lord  and  superior  of  all  the 
people  of  the  earth,  and  head  of  the  whole  human  lineage; 
whom  all  should  obey,  wherever  they  might  live,  and  what- 
ever might  be  their  law,  sect,  or  belief;  he  gave  him  also  the 
whole  world  for  his  service  and  jurisdiction;  and  though  he 
desired  that  he  should  establish  his  chair  in  Rome,  yet  he  per- 
mitted that  he  might  establish  his  chair  in  any  other  part  of 
the  world,  and  judge  and  govern  all  the  nations,  Christians, 
Moors,  Jews,  Gentiles,  and  whatever  other  sect  or  belief 
might  be.  This  person  was  denominated  Pope,  that  is  to 
say,  Admirable,  Supreme,  Father  and  Guardian,  because  he 
is  father  and  governor  of  all  mankind.  This  holy  father  was 
obeyed  and  honored  as  lord,  king,  and  superior  of  the  uni- 
verse by  those  who  lived  in  his  time,  and,  in  like  manner, 
have  been  obeyed  and  honored  all  those  who  have  been 
elected  to  the  pontificate;  and  thus  it  has  continued  unto 
the  present  day,  and  will  continue  until  the  end  of  the  world. 
"One  of  these  pontiffs,  of  whom  I  have  spoken,  as  lord 
of  the  world,  made  a  donation  of  these  islands  and  conti- 
nents of  the  ocean  sea,  and  all  that  they  contain,  to  the 
Catholic  kings  of  Castile,  who,  at  that  time,  were  Ferdinand 
and  Isabella,  of  glorious  memory,  and  to  their  successors, 
our  sovereigns,  according  to  the  tenor  of  certain  papers, 
drawn  up  for  the  purpose  (which  you  may  see  if  you  desire). 
Thus  his  majesty  is  king  and  sovereign  of  these  islands  and 
continents  by  virtue  of  the  said  donation,  and,  as  king  and 


sovereign,  certain  islands,  and  almost  all,  to  whom  this  has 
been  notified,  have  received  his  majesty,  and  have  obeyed 
and  served,  and  do  actually  serve  him.  And,  moreover,  like 
good  subjects,  and  with  good  will,  and  without  any  resistance 
or  delay,  the  moment  they  were  informed  of  the  foregoing, 
they  obeyed  all  the  religious  men  sent  among  them  to  preach 
and  teach  our  holy  faith;  and  these  of  their  free  and  cheer- 
ful will,  without  any  condition  or  reward,  became  Chris- 
tians, and  continue  so  to  be.  And  his  majesty  received 
them  kindly  and  benignantly,  and  ordered  that  they  should 
be  treated  like  his  other  subjects  and  vassals.  You  also 
are  required  and  obliged  to  do  the  same.  Therefore,  in  the 
best  manner  I  can,  I  pray  and  entreat  you,  that  you  consider 
well  what  I  have  said,  and  that  you  take  whatever  time  is 
reasonable  to  understand  and  deliberate  upon  it,  and  that 
you  recognize  the  church  for  sovereign  and  superior  of  the 
universal  world,  and  the  supreme  pontiff,  called  Pope,  in 
her  name,  and  his  majesty,  in  his  place,  as  superior  and 
sovereign  king  of  the  islands  and  terra  firma  by  virtue  of 
said  donation;  and  that  you  consent  that  these  religious 
fathers  declare  and  preach  to  you  the  foregoing:  and  if 
you  shall  so  do,  you  will  do  well,  and  will  do  that  to  which 
your  are  bounden  and  obliged;  and  his  majesty,  and  I,  in 
his  name,  will  receive  you  with  all  due  love  and  charity; 
and  will  leave  you  your  wives  and  children  free  from  servi- 
tude, that  you  may  freely  do  with  them  and  with  yourselves 
whatever  you  please  and  think  proper,  as  have  done  the 
inhabitants  of  the  other  islands.  And,  besides  this,  his 
majesty  will  give  you  many  privileges  and  exemptions,  and 
grant  you  many  favors.  If  you  do  not  do  this,  or  wickedly 
and  intentionally  delay  to  do  so,  I  certify  to  you  that,  by 
the  aid  of  God,  I  will  forcibly  invade  and  make  war  upon 
you  in  all  parts  and  modes  that  I  can,  and  will  subdue  you 
to  the  yoke  and  obedience  of  the  church  and  of  his  majesty; 

158  PANAMA 

and  I  will  take  your  wives  and  children  and  make  slaves  of 
them,  and  sell  them  as  such,  and  dispose  of  them  as  his 
majesty  may  command;  and  I  will  take  your  effects,  and 
will  do  you  all  the  harm  and  injury  in  my  power,  as  vassals 
who  will  not  obey  or  receive  their  sovereign  and  who  resist 
and  oppose  him.  And  I  protest  that  the  deaths  and  disas- 
ters, which  may  in  this  manner  be  occasioned,  will  be  the 
fault  of  yourselves,  and  not  of  his  majesty,  nor  of  me,  nor 
of  the  cavaliers  who  accompany  me.  And  of  what  I  tell 
you  and  require  of  you,  I  call  upon  the  notary  here  present 
to  give  me  his  signed  testimonial." 

How  much  the  natives  understood  of  these  ponderously 
intoned  Spanish  sentences,  we  do  not  know.  But  the  gist  of 
it  seems  to  have  been  made  plain  to  them,  for  the  accounts 
say  that  they  replied  with  great  dignity  that  they  were  satis- 
fied with  their  own  chiefs  and  were  entirely  ready  to  protect 
their  wives  and  children. 

The  Spaniards  made  short  work  of  them  on  the  open 
beach — but  they  had  not  yet  learned  the  danger  of  follow- 
ing the  natives  into  the  jungle.  Nor  had  they  learned  the 
horror  of  poisoned  arrow.  Juan  de  la  Cosa  urged  Ojeda 
to  be  content  with  his  victory  and  to  postpone  further 
fighting  until  they  had  found  a  suitable  place  for  their 
settlement  and  had  established  themselves.  But  it  was 
not  Ojeda's  nature  to  be  cautious.  He  gave  the  order  for 
pursuit.  They  came  in  an  hour  or  so  to  a  large  Indian 
village.  In  a  moment  they  had  scattered  in  quest  of  booty. 
And  then  the  natives  fell  upon  them.  They  were  off  their 
guard  and  most  of  them  fell  during  the  first  surprise.  Juan 
de  la  Cosa  rallied  a  few  of  them  and  made  a  desperate  re- 
sistance. Only  one  of  this  group  escaped.  Ojeda  also  with 
his  marvellous  luck  got  away  into  the  jungle.  But  sepa- 
rated from  his  men  he  went  astray.  Without  food  and  in 
constant  danger  of  discovery  he  struggled  through  the  dense 


underbrush.  With  his  last  strength  he  reached  the  seaside. 
And  there  his  men  found  him  in  an  almost  dying  condition. 
The  sailors  left  on  shipboard  had  become  desperate  at  the 
long  absence  of  the  landing  party.  Just  when  things  were 
at  their  darkest  some  sails  came  up  over  the  horizon — it 
was  the  fleet  of  Nicuesa. 

The  two  governors  had  parted  in  anger,  and  Ojeda  feared 
that  his  rival  would  take  advantage  of  his  distress.  But 
Nicuesa — it  is  the  one  really  noble  incident  related  about 
him — sent  word  that  "A  Spanish  hidalgo  does  not  harbor 
malice  against  a  prostrate  foe."  He  turned  aside  from  his 
own  errand  to  land  a  party  and  help  Ojeda  wreak  a  bloody 
vengeance  for  the  death  of  Juan  de  la  Cosa.  They  surprised 
the  Indians,  who  were  feasting  in  their  village,  in  celebration 
of  their  victory,  and  massacred  them  to  the  last  child.  The 
blood  lust  of  the  Spaniards  was  whetted  by  the  sight  of  the 
corpse  of  de  la  Cosa,  horribly  bloated  and  discolored  as  a  result 
of  the  poisoned  arrows.  Incidentally  the  share  of  Nicuesa's 
men  in  the  booty  was  over  thirty-five  thousand  dollars. 

Ojeda  sailed  on  to  the  Gulf  of  Darien,  the  western  boun- 
dary of  his  province,  and  disembarked  on  the  eastern  shore. 
In  memory  of  Juan  de  la  Cosa  and  as  a  protective  charm 
he  named  the  place  San  Sebastien,  after  the  saint  who  died 
from  arrow  wounds.  It  was  the  first  European  settlement 
on  the  American  continent.  He  despatched  his  fastest 
ship  back  to  Santo  Domingo,  with  booty  already  won  and 
glowing  letters  to  the  bachelor  Enciso,  urging  him  to  hurry 
along  with  his  law  book,  and  the  needed  reinforcements  and 

After  separating  from  Ojeda,  Nicuesa  sailed  on  westward 
in  search  of  the  Aurea  Chersoneus  he  had  come  to  govern. 
The  booty  had  already  been  rich;  from  Columbus's  account 
of  the  gold  of  the  Rio  Veragua,  he  had  every  reason  to  ex- 
pect even  fatter  pluckings. 

160  PANAMA 

When  he  picked  up  the  coast  of  the  Isthmus,  he  ordered 
his  two  large  ships  to  stand  well  out  to  sea.  Lope  de  Olano, 
his  second  in  command,  was  to  keep  in  sight  of  him  in  the 
brigantine,  while  he  in  the  little  caravel  would  scout  in 
close  to  shore.  They  passed  the  Veragua  by  mistake. 
Some  of  the  sailors  who  had  skirted  the  coast  with  Colum- 
bus seven  years  before  discovered  the  error.  They  urged  him 
to  turn  back.  But  with  the  cock-sure  pigheadedness  which 
was  his  salient  characteristic  he  pushed  on. 

A  sudden  storm,  for  which  the  coast  is  famous,  caused 
the  ships  to  tack  out,  away  from  the  lea  shore.  Nicuesa,  in 
his  little  cockle-shell  boat,  had  to  seek  shelter  in  the  cove 
made  by  a  river's  mouth.  A  sudden  freshet  wrecked  the 
caravel.  With  great  difficulty  the  company  won  safe  to 
shore,  in  the  long  boat,  but  without  provisions.  In  the 
morning  Lope  de  Olano  and  his  brigantine  were  nowhere  to 
be  seen.  For  awhile  the  little  company  waited  on  the  beach 
for  rescue.  But  Lope  de  Olano  did  not  come  for  them.  As 
the  same  gentleman  had  been  one  of  the  mutineers  against 
Columbus,  in  the  Rebellion  of  Santo  Domingo,  he  has  gen- 
erally been  accused  of  deliberately  deserting  Nicuesa,  in  the 
hope  of  inheriting  his  governorship.  Whatever  his  motives 
were,  he  rejoined  the  ships  after  the  storm,  told  the  company 
that  the  caravel  had  been  lost  with  all  on  board. 

Nicuesa  and  the  crew  of  the  caravel  found  themselves  in 
an  exceedingly  precarious  position.  They  had  no  resources 
beyond  those  which  the  jungle  and  the  sea  offered  them. 
They  had  no  means  of  communication  but  the  long  boat. 
With  a  persistence  worthy  of  a  better  cause  Nicuesa  in- 
sisted on  pushing  westward.  The  sailors,  who  knew  they 
had  passed  the  Rio  Veragua — which  had  been  agreed  upon 
as  a  rendezvous  in  case  of  separation — urged  him  to  turn 
back.  But  whatever  his  shortcomings,  Nicuesa  was  a  com- 
mander who  commanded.  And  he  marched  his  company 


westward  along  the  beach.  Four  men  in  the  long  boat 
rowed  along  close  inshore  and  ferried  them  across  the  in- 
numerable streams  which  empty  into  the  sea. 

It  was  desperately  slow  progress,  desperately  scant  fare, 
nothing  but  sea  food  and  occasional  cocoanuts.  The  silk 
raiment  of  the  noble  cavaliers  was  not  built  for  such  work. 
Nor  were  many  of  the  men  prepared  for  it. 

One  day  as  they  were  passing  along  under  a  high  cliff  a 
javelin  hummed  down  from  the  overhanging  trees.  It 
pierced  the  heart  of  Nicuesa's  little  page.  The  lad's  white 
satin  jacket,  frayed  as  it  was  by  the  thorns,  soiled  by  the 
mud  of  the  rivers,  had  proved  a  good  mark  for  the  Indian. 
But  beyond  this  they  were  not  attacked — they  met  no  other 
sign  of  man. 

One  evening  they  came  to  a  large  river,  just  before  sun- 
down. There  was  hardly  time  to  ferry  them  across  before 
the  darkness.  In  the  morning  the  long  boat  had  disap- 
peared. Their  situation  was  made  more  desperate  by  the 
fact  that  they  were  not  on  the  mainland,  but  on  a  delta  of 
the  river.  Marooned  on  this  island,  without  provisions, 
entirely  dependent  on  shell-fish  for  food  and  on  uncertain 
pools  of  rain-water  for  drink,  most  of  them  gave  up  hope. 
Nicuesa  seems  to  have  proved  himself  a  brave  man. 
He  did  what  could  be  done  to  keep  up  their  spirits.  Three 
different  times  he  persuaded  them  to  build  a  raft,  but  they 
had  no  tools,  no  nails.  Each  time  the  surf  smashed  their 
flimsy  floats  to  pieces. 

"There  they  continued  a  long  time,"  Herrera  writes, 
"some  say  above  three  months.  Some  of  them  dying  daily 
through  drinking  brackish  water;  those  that  remained  alive 
crawling  about  on  all  four,  as  not  having  Strength  to  walk." 

But  the  long  boat  had  not  foundered  at  sea,  nor  were 
Ribero,  the  boatswain,  and  his  three  companions  guilty  of 
malicious  desertion.  They  knew  the  coast,  knew  that  Nicu- 

162  PANAMA 

esa  was  leading  his  followers  every  day  farther  from  help 
and  hope.  So,  taking  things  in  their  own  hands,  they 
slipped  away  during  the  night  to  see  if  they  could  bring  a 

Lope  de  Olano,  when  he  had  assumed  command  of  the 
main  force  of  the  expedition,  had  led  them  to  the  Rio 
Belen.  They  started  a  new  settlement  on  the  spot  where 
Columbus  and  his  brother  Bartholomew  had  tried  to  found 
one  seven  years  before.  After  incredible  hardships,  Ribero 
and  his  comrades  found  the  encampment.  Lope  de  Olano 
may  not  have  welcomed  the  news  that  his  governor  was  still 
alive,  but  he  at  once  despatched  the  brigantine  to  the 

It  arrived  just  in  time.  Nicuesa  and  the  remnant  of  his 
company  were  too  weakened  to  signal  from  the  shore. 
They  had  watched  so  long  for  a  sail  in  vain  that  they  could 
hardly  believe  it,  when  they  were  carried  on  board  and 
fed.  > 

Nicuesa's  first  act  on  rejoining  his  colony  was  to  order 
the  imprisonment  of  Lope  de  Olano.  Only  the  intercession 
of  all  the  company  saved  his  head.  Once  more  in  the  sad- 
dle, Nicuesa  rode  hard.  His  arrogance  returned,  his  un- 
popularity grew  rapidly.  In  this  unformed  colony  he  tried 
to  rule  like  a  great  monarch  of  an  established  kingdom. 

Quiban,  the  native  chieftain,  who  had  discomforted  Bar- 
tholomew Columbus,  was  still  lord  of  the  coast.  But  he 
had  discovered  that  famine  was  a  surer  weapon  that  his 
arrows.  He  had  gathered  his  people  together;  they  had 
rooted  up  all  their  plantations  and  had  moved  inland.  The 
Spaniards  very  soon  had  to  give  up  looking  for  gold.  They 
needed  food. 

"All  those  People  being  in  such  Distress,  to  add  to  it 
Nicuessa  grew  daily  worse  condition'd,  and  treated  those 
few  who  remain'd  very  harshly." 


At  last  sickness  and  hunger  forced  them  to  give  up  the 
colony.  They  set  sail  in  the  hope  of  finding  a  kinder  spot 
for  their  enterprise.  As  they  coasted  along  eastward,  one 
of  the  old  sailors  of  Columbus's  crew  told  them  of  the 
beautiful  Puerto  Bello  and  generous  supply  of  cool  springs. 
He  guided  the  fleet  thither — half  buried  in  the  sand  they  saw 
an  anchor  which  had  been  left  by  the  Great  Admiral.  But 
when  a  party  went  ashore  to  fill  their  water  casks  they  were 
attacked  by  Indians.  The  Spaniards  were  so  weak  from 
exposure  and  hunger  that  they  could  not  wield  their  heavy 
weapons  and  were  driven  back  to  their  boats.  Not  six 
months  had  passed  since  they  had  sailed  so  blithely  from 
Santo  Domingo  to  win  and  rule  a  kingdom.  Now  these 
old  veterans  of  the  Moorish  wars  had  to  retreat  before  a 
handful  of  naked  savages. 

A  little  farther  down  the  coast  they  came  to  a  fair  haven. 
They  had  hardly  enough  strength  left  to  navigate. 

"Paremos  aquf  en  el  nombre  de  Dios!"  (Let  us  stop  here 
in  the  name  of  God),  Nicuesa  exclaimed. 

The  superstitious  sailors  accepted  his  words  as  an  omen; 
they  disembarked,  calling  the  place  "Name  of  God." 

But  even  the  magic  of  so  great  a  name  did  not  improve 
their  condition.  With  their  last  energy  they  built  a  little 
fort.  Then  once  more  disease  and  hunger  sat  down  among 

Nicuesa  had  left  a  few  men  at  the  Rio  Belen  to  await  the 
ripening  of  some  corn.  The  party  he  sent  to  bring  them  to 
Nombre  de  Dios  found  them  so  reduced  by  starvation,  that 
they  were  eating  leather.  His  united  forces  mustered  but 
one  hundred.  Six  hundred  had  already  perished. 

"Nicuessa  and  those  few  who  remain' d  with  him  were 
reduc'd  to  such  Distress  by  Sickness  and  Famine,  that  not 
one  of  them  was  able  to  watch  or  stand  Sentinel  at  Night, 
and  thus  they  wasted  away." 

164  PANAMA 

Meanwhile  the  rival  colony  in  Nueva  Andalucfa,  was 
faring  little  better.  The  little  town  of  San  Sebastien  did 
not  at  first  suffer  so  much  from  hunger.  Their  scourge  was 
the  poison,  with  which  the  natives  tipped  their  arrows. 
So  deadly  was  the  venom  that  the  slightest  scratch  meant 
a  horrible  death.  Herrera  gives  interesting  details  as  to 
the  method  of  its  manufacture: 

"This  Poison  was  made  with  certain  stinking  grey  Roots 
found  along  the  Sea  Coast,  and  being  Burnt  in  Earthen 
Pipkins,  they  made  a  Paste  with  a  sort  of  very  black  Pis- 
mires, as  big  as  Beetles,  so  poisonous,  that  if  they  happened 
to  bite  a  Man,  it  put  him  beside  himself.  They  add  to  this 
Composition  large  Spiders,  and  hairy  Worms,  as  long  as  half 
a  Man's  Finger,  the  Bite  of  which  is  as  bad  as  that  of  the 
Pismires  above  mentioned,  as  also  the  Wings  of  a  Bat 
and  the  Head  and  Tail  of  a  Sea  Fish  called  Tavorino,  very 
venomous:  besides  Toads,  the  Tails  of  Snakes,  and  Man- 
ganillas,  which  are  like  beautiful  Apples,  but  a  deadly 
Poison.  All  these  ingredients  being  set  over  a  great  Fire, 
in  an  open  Field,  remote  from  their  towns,  were  boil'd  in 
Pots,  by  a  Slave,  till  they  came  to  the  proper  Consistence 
and  the  Person  that  look'd  to  it  dy'd  of  the  Steam." 

This  receipt  was  probably  the  work  of  someone's  imagina- 
tion, but  it  shows  vividly  how  fearfully  the  Spaniards  re- 
garded these  poisoned  arrows. 

If  the  Bachelor  Enciso  had  hurried  with  his  reinforce- 
ments, San  Sebastien  might  have  won  the  distinction  of 
enduring.  But  for  some  reason  he  delayed.  Provisions 
began  to  run  low.  No  more  booty  was  to  be  found  close 
by.  And  in  the  depths  of  the  jungle  the  poisoned  arrows 
reaped  too  deadly  a  harvest  to  make  forays  popular  with 
the  men.  So  efficacious  had  been  Ojeda's  picture  of  the 
Virgin,  that  as  yet  he  had  never  lost  blood  in  battle.  So 
extraordinary  had  been  his  luck — for  he  never  spared  him- 


self,  was  always  in  the  front  of  the  fight — that  the  Indians 
began  also  to  believe  that  his  life  was  charmed. 

In  order  to  test  his  vulnerability  they  set  a  trap  for  him. 
Four  of  their  best  marksmen  hid  in  the  trees,  while  their 
comrades  made  an  attack  on  the  colony.  As  was  always  his 
custom,  Ojeda  led  the  sortie.  The  wily  savages  retreated 
and  the  governor  followed  them  into  the  ambush.  Three  of 
the  arrows  missed  him,  but  one  drove  clear  through  his 

The  colony  was  thrown  into  despair  by  this  wound.  It 
seemed  that  the  Virgin  had  withdrawn  her  protection.  In 
all  their  stay  in  the  New  World  they  had  never  seen  one  of 
their  company  recover  from  an  arrow  wound.  But  Ojeda 
was  not  the  kind  to  despair,  even  when  the  Fates  seemed 
to  have  decreed  his  death.  One  of  the  symptoms  of  the 
poisoning  was  a  feeling  of  icy  numbness  about  the  wound. 
This  suggested  a  heroic  remedy  to  the  governor.  He  or- 
dered his  surgeon  to  heat  two  iron  plates  to  the  point  of 
redness  and  clap  them  on  the  two  orifices  of  the  wound. 
Only  under  the  threat  of  immediate  hanging  could  the  sur- 
geon be  persuaded  to  apply  so  stringent  a  medicine.  Ojeda 
stood  the  ordeal  without  flinching — and  recovered!  Cer- 
tain modern  historians,  with  the  skepticism  of  their  tribe, 
suggest  that  perhaps  this  particular  arrow  was  not  poisoned. 
But  whether  or  not  so  painful  a  remedy  was  necessary  there 
is  no  doubt  that  it  was  applied. 

After  this  accident — Ojeda  was  a  long  time  recovering 
from  the  burns — the  colony  lost  heart.  The  natives  pressed 
so  close  to  the  fort  that  even  the  excursions  for  fresh  water 
became  dangerous.  Famine  came  to  them  as  it  had  to 
Nicuesa  and  his  following. 

At  last  a  ship  was  seen  approaching.  The  fainting  col- 
onists were  cheered  by  the  thought  that  it  was  the  Bachelor 
Enciso.  But  once  more  they  were  to  be  disappointed. 

166  PANAMA 

The  brigantine  turned  out  to  be  in  the  hands  of  a  band 
of  pirates,  under  the  command  of  a  dare-devil  adventurer 
named  Tolavera.  When  the  brigantine,  which  Ojeda  had 
despatched  from  San  Sebastien,  laden  with  the  first  spoils 
from  his  new  province,  reached  Santo  Domingo,  every  one 
who  had  not  accompanied  him  cursed  their  luck,  cursed  the 
prudence  which  had  kept  them  from  joining  him.  Tolavera 
collected  a  gang  of  cut-throats  from  the  taverns  of  the  water 
front,  marched  them  overland  to  a  little  cove  where  a 
Genoese  brigantine  was  taking  on  lumber.  They  murdered 
the  crew  and  set  sail  to  join  Ojeda. 

The  small  stock  of  provisions  which  they  had  brought 
relieved  the  immediate  famine  at  San  Sebastien  but  did 
not  permanently  strengthen  their  position.  And  when  the 
pirates  saw  the  ill  condition  of  affairs,  they  decided  that  they 
would  be  better  off  in  Santo  Domingo,  taking  a  chance  at 
hanging  for  their  piracy,  rather  than  stay  in  Nueva  Anda- 
lucia  to  die  of  hunger  or  poisoned  arrows. 

Ojeda  decided  to  sail  with  them  and  see  what  he  could  do 
to  hurry  up  reinforcements.  He  left  what  was  left  of  his 
forces  under  the  command  of  Francisco  Pizarro,  with  in- 
structions to  hold  on  for  fifty  days.  If  in  that  time  no  word 
had  been  received  either  from  him  or  Enciso,  they  could  give 
up  the  colony  and  retreat  to  Santo  Domingo  in  the  two 
brigantines.  The  two  ships  had  gone  to  pieces  under  the 
attack  of  the  "  Teredos." 

Ojeda,  taking  with  him  all  the  gold  he  had  collected, 
embarked  with  Tolavera.  This  debonaire  pirate  was  no 
sooner  out  of  sight  of  land  than  he  put  the  unfortunate 
governor  in  chains  and  appropriated  the  treasure.  Ojeda 
offered  to  fight  the  whole  ship's  company  if  they  would  come 
at  him  two  at  a  time.  But  they  had  not  the  courage  to 
accept  his  challenge.  And  besides  they  were  poor  sailors 
and  had  had  trouble  navigating  their  ship  and  thought  it 


well  to  keep  at  least  one  able  seaman  alive.  In  fact,  they 
shortly  ran  into  a  hurricane  and  had  to  release  him  so  that 
he  could  save  the  ship.  They  were  in  time  wrecked  on  the 
shore  of  Cuba,  as  yet  an  unconquered  island.  For  months 
they  lived  among  the  Indians  amid  great  dangers  and  hard- 
ships. When  they  finally  reached  Santo  Domingo,  Ojeda 
was  unjustly  thrown  into  prison. 

"He  died,"  Irving  writes,  "so  poor  that  he  did  not  leave 
money  enough  to  pay  for  his  interment;  and  so  broken  in 
spirit  that,  with  his  last  breath,  he  entreated  his  body  might 
be  buried  in  the  monastery  of  San  Francisco,  just  at  the 
portal,  in  humble  expiation  of  his  past  pride,  'that  every 
one  who  entered  might  tread  upon  his  grave/ 

"Such  was  the  fate  of  Alonso  de  Ojeda — and  who  does 
not  forget  his  errors  and  his  faults  at  the  threshold  of  his 
humble  and  untimely  grave!  He  was  one  of  the  most  fear- 
less and  aspiring  of  the  band  of  'Ocean  chivalry'  that  fol- 
lowed the  footsteps  of  Columbus.  His  story  presents  a 
lively  picture  of  the  daring  enterprises,  the  extravagant 
exploits,  the  thousand  accidents,  by  flood  and  field,  which 
checkered  the  life  of  a  Spanish  cavalier  in  that  roving  and 
romantic  age." 

After  Ojeda  had  left  them,  the  colonists  of  San  Sebastian 
continued  their  desperate  struggle  with  famine  and  poisoned 
arrows.  They  held  on  grimly — Francisco  Pizarro,  their 
commander,  owed  his  ultimate  fame  to  this  bull-dog  ability 
to  hang  on — until  the  fifty  days  were  up.  No  help  had 
come.  But  an  unlocked  for  obstacle  prevented  them  from 
sailing  at  once.  Out  of  the  three  hundred  who  had  sailed 
from  Santo  Domingo,  seventy  were  still  alive.  The  two 
brigantines  would  not  hold  so  many.  None  would  consent 
to  stay  behind  in  the  death-ridden  place,  so  they  had  to 
wait  "until  famine,  sickness,  and  the  poisoned  arrows  of 
the  Indians  should  reduce  their  number  to  the  capacity  of 

168  PANAMA 

the  brigantines."  And  Irving  laconically  continues:  "A 
brief  space  of  time  was  sufficient  for  the  purpose."  They 
killed  and  salted  down  the  four  horses  which  were  left  to 
them,  and  gathering  up  what  meagre  provisions  they  could 
find,  embarked.  Pizarro  commanded  one  of  the  brigantines, 
Valenzuela  the  other. 

Outside  of  the  port  they  at  once  encountered  a  storm. 
Valenzuela's  boat  suddenly  fell  apart  and  all  hands  were 

To  quote  again  from  Irving's  picturesque  narrative: 
"The  other  brigantine  was  so  near,  that  the  mariners  wit- 
nessed the  struggles  of  their  drowning  companions,  and 
heard  their  cries.  Some  of  the  sailors,  with  the  common 
disposition  to  the  marvellous,  declared  that  they  beheld  a 
great  whale,  or  other  monster  of  the  deep,  strike  the  vessel 
with  its  tail,  and  either  stave  in  its  sides  or  shatter  the 
rudder,  so  as  to  cause  the  ship-wreck." 

And  so  Pizarro  with  about  thirty  men,  pitching  about  on 
the  storm-swept  sea  in  a  crazy,  worm-eaten  vessel,  and 
Nicuesa  with  his  hundred  starving,  despairing  men  at 
Nombre  de  Dios,  were  all  that  was  left  of  the  two  brave 
companies  which  set  out  to  colonize  the  Mainland. 



JUST  about  the  time  when  the  remnant  of  Ojeda's  colony 
were  deserting  San  Sebastien,  the  Bachelor  Enciso,  having 
completed  his  equipment,  sailed  from  Santo  Domingo.  His 
ship  was  well  laden  with  provisions  and  carried  one  hundred 
and  fifty  men.  They  took  with  them  a  dozen  mares,  "some 
horses,  sows,  with  boars  to  breed." 

He  touched  first  at  Carthagena  and,  despite  the  massacre 
committed  there  by  the  joint  forces  of  Ojeda  and  Nicuesa,  was 
able  to  establish  friendly  relations  with  the  natives.  In  the 
very  few  instances,  like  this  one,  where  the  Spaniards  did 
not  precipitate  a  fight,  the  Indians  proved  ready  to  receive 
them  as  friends.  But  as  a  rule  the  white  men  found  it  easier 
to  get  the  gold  ornaments  from  dead  bodies,  than  by  trade. 

As  Enciso  was  getting  up  anchor  to  sail  westward  to  San 
Sebastien,  where  he  expected  to  find  Ojeda  and  a  thriving 
town,  he  was  surprised  to  see  a  brigantine  entering  the 
harbor.  The  sight  of  a  European  sail  in  these  waters  was 
indeed  unusual.  But  his  surprise  turned  to  anger  when  he 
discovered  that  the  newcomers  were  men  of  Ojeda's  com- 
pany. With  his  legal  and  suspicious  mind  he  jumped  at 
the  conclusion  that  they  were  deserters  and  prepared  to 
begin  his  career  as  Chief  Justice  of  Nueva  Andalucia  by 
putting  them  in  chains.  But  the  captain  of  this  gaunt  and 
hungry  crew,  Francisco  Pizarro,  was  not  a  man  to  be  brow- 
beaten. He  produced  his  commission  signed  by  Ojeda. 

What  the  shock  to  the  Bachelor's  hopes  their  story  must 

170  PANAMA 

have  been  is  easily  imagined.  More  than  fifty  days  had 
passed  since  Ojeda  had  sailed  from  San  Sebastien.  Nothing 
but  some  tragic  misfortune  could  explain  the  fact  that  he 
had  not  reached  Santo  Domingo  before  Enciso  sailed. 
Having  come  out  to  give  laws  to  a  prosperous  community, 
the  Bachelor  found  there  was  nothing  to  rule  except  what 
he  might  be  able  to  conquer. 

Pizarro's  little  band  wanted  to  return  at  once  to  Santo 
Domingo;  they  had  had  more  than  enough  of  hardship.  But 
the  Bachelor  exerted  his  authority;  he  would  at  least  have  a 
look  at  the  place  he  had  come  to  govern. 

Of  all  the  localities  in  the  New  World  which  proved  un- 
lucky to  the  Spaniards,  that  of  San  Sebastien  proved  the 
worst.  As  they  entered  the  harbor,  Enciso's  ship  struck 
a  rock  and  went  to  pieces.  The  company  escaped  ashore, 
but,  in  the  words  of  Irving,  "the  unfortunate  Bachelor 
beheld  the  proceeds  of  several  years  of  prosperous  litigation 
swallowed  up  in  an  instant. 

"His  dream  of  place  and  dignity  seemed  equally  on  the 
point  of  vanishing;  for,  on  landing,  he  found  the  fortress  and 
its  adjacent  houses  mere  heaps  of  ruins,  having  been  de- 
stroyed with  fire  by  the  Indians." 

In  this  moment  of  general  discouragement,  a  man,  for 
whom  the  Fates  had  arranged  a  great  destiny,  suddenly 
came  to  the  front. 

"Once,"  he  said,  "when  I  coasted  this  gulf  with  Rodrigo 
de  Bastides,  on  the  western  shore  we  found  the  country 
fertile  and  rich  in  gold.  Provisions  were  abundant;  and  the 
natives,  although  warlike,  do  not  use  poisoned  arrows.  It 
lies  just  beyond  the  great  river  which  the  Indians  called 

Momentous  words  these.  They  guided  the  Spaniards  to 
their  first  secure  foothold  on  the  Continent  of  America.  They 
were  spoken  by  one  of  the  least  considered  men  of  the  crew, 

Copyright  by  Underwood  &•  Under-wood. 


SANTA    MAEIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DABIEN    171 

one  who  was  referred  to  derisively  as  "el  hombre  del  casco," 
Vasco  Nunez  de  Balboa. 

At  this  time  he  was  about  thirty-five  years  old.  Like  most 
of  the  Conquistadores,  he  had  been  molded  in  the  school  of 
medieval  chivalry.  Born  in  Jerez  de  los  Caballeros,  he  had 
seen  much  service  during  the  Moorish  wars  in  the  retinue 
of  Don  Pedro  Puertocarrero  de  Moguer.  He  had  sought 
adventure  in  the  New  World,  sailing  these  very  waters,  with 
Bastides  in  the  famous  voyage  of  1500-1502.  He  had  ac- 
quired very  little  gold  on  that  expedition,  but  it  had  won  for 
him  greater  wealth,  a  knowledge  of  the  coast.  It  had  pre- 
pared him  to  seize  this,  his  great  opportunity. 

After  the  voyage  he  had  settled  down  in  the  colony  of 
Santo  Domingo,  buying  a  farm  in  the  hamlet  of  Salvatierra. 
But  such  was  not  the  intention  of  his  destiny;  he  failed 
miserably  at  agriculture.  Tired  of  the  insistent  din  of  his 
creditors,  hearing  once  more  the  call  of  the  sea,  he  contrived 
to  get  aboard  Enciso's  ship  in  a  barrel. 

"When,  like  Aphrodite,  from  her  circling  shell," — Ban- 
croft's "Central  America," — "the  serio-comic  face  of  the 
bankrupt  farmer  appeared  emerging  from  the  provision  cask, 
the  bachiller  was  disposed  to  treat  the  matter  magisterially, 
and  threatened  to  land  the  refugee  from  justice  on  the  first 
deserted  island." 

However  Enciso  had  not  been  able  to  recruit  as  many 
men  as  he  had  hoped.  Vasco  Nunez  was  in  the  prime  of 
life,  a  hardy,  experienced  adventurer.  So  the  Bachelor 
forgot  his  threat.  His  unexpected  recruit,  however,  did 

During  the  voyage  "el  hombre  del  casco"  had  conducted 
himself  modestly.  Although  the  nickname  had  stuck  to 
him,  the  crew  had  learned  not  to  use  it  insultingly.  In  his 
quiet,  diplomatic  way  he  had  earned  the  friendship  of  most 
of  them,  the  respect  of  the  rest. 

172  PANAMA 

His  suggestion  to  try  the  western  shore  of  the  Gulf  of 
Darien  was  accepted  by  acclamation.  Enciso,  leaving  some 
of  his  company  in  the  hastily  reconstructed  stockade,  crossed 
over  with  all  the  men  who  could  crowd  into  the  brigantine. 
The  place  to  which  Vasco  Nunez  guided  them  was  in  the 
territory  of  the  Cacique  Cemaco.  (The  old  English  chron- 
iclers write  the  name  Cazique  Zemaco.  But  the  Spanish 
"c"  before  "i"  or  "e"  is  more  nearly  rendered  in  English 
by  "th.") 

Cemaco  seems  to  have  been  a  fine  old  character.  He 
never  became  reconciled  to  the  conquest.  For  many  years 
to  come  he  never  allowed  his  desire  for  revenge  to  cool. 
Again  and  again  his  name  crops  up  in  the  old  narratives. 
When  he  saw  the  ship  approaching  he  sent  his  non-combat- 
ants up  into  the  hills  and  met  the  invaders  on  the  beach 
with  five  hundred  men. 

Enciso  had  his  notary  read  to  the  natives  the  same  proc- 
lamation which  Ojeda  had  used.  And  having  made  himself 
right  in  the  eye  of  the  law,  he  was  equally  scrupulously  to 
observe  the  religious  formalities.  Bancroft  summarizes  the 
detailed  accounts  of  the  chroniclers  in  these  words:  "He 
invokes  the  powers  above,  vows  to  the  Virgin  that  this 
heathen  town  shall  be  hers  in  name,  if  she  will  make  it  his  in 
substance;  vows,  if  she  will  give  it  him,  that  with  Cemaco's 
gold  he  will  build  on  Cemaco's  land  a  church,  and  dedicate 
the  sacred  edifice  to  her  adored  image,  Antigua  of  Seville. 
Moreover,  he  will  make  a  pilgrimage  to  her  holy  shrine. 
Virgen  Santissima ! " 

It  is  easy  to  poke  fun  at  the  religious  formulas  of  these 
Conquistadores,  and  it  seems  to  me  a  rather  cheap  humor. 
To  them  the  formulas  were  not  empty.  This  preposterous 
proclamation,  in  which  they  command  the  natives  to  accept 
the  Pope,  was  not  the  concoction  of  the  men  who  used  it  as 
a  prelude  to  their  butcheries.  It  was  the  product  of  the 

SANTA    MARIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL    DARIEN    173 

divinity  authorities  of  the  day.  The  Pope's  Bull  in  which 
he  gave  half  the  unknown  world  to  the  Spaniards  and  half 
to  the  Portuguese  was  taken  seriously  by  the  learned  men 
of  the  day.  It  is  small  wonder  that  these  uncultivated 
soldiers  believed  it  to  be  binding. 

We  live  in  a  day  of  easy  tolerance.  The  Conquistadores 
had  been  trained  in  the  Moorish  wars,  where  prisoners  from 
either  side  were  given  the  choice  between  renouncing  their 
religion  and  dying.  We  may  easily  say  that  the  superstitions 
of  those  days  were  childish,  but  there  is  no  ground  for 
believing  them  hypocritical.  Alonso  de  Ojeda,  whatever 
his  private  vices,  would  have  gone  blithely  to  the  stake, 
rather  than  desecrate  his  picture  of  the  Virgin. 

The  history  of  the  Church  is  full  of  references  to  the  heresy 
of  Antinomism.  Saint  Paul  inveighed  against  it.  There  has 
been  hardly  a  decade  since  when  the  same  heresy  has  not 
cropped  out  in  some  sect.  It  is,  in  short,  a  belief  that  if 
your  spiritual  relation  to  God  is  correct,  you  will  be  saved 
no  matter  what  your  physical  relations,  your  personal  ethics 
are.  There  was  no  age  when  this  heresy  was  more  generally 
condemned  and,  as  such  things  go,  more  generally  practised. 
Never  has  there  been  a  greater  divorce  between  Theology 
and  Morals.  But  just  in  proportion  as  the  ethic  of  Christen- 
dom became  debauched,  so  sincere,  fanatical  devotion  was 
given  to  the  forms  of  worship.  Enciso  and  his  men  were 
certainly  bent  on  murder  and  rapine.  But  just  as  certainly 
they  would  not  have  fought  as  valorously  if  they  had  not 
first  adored  the  Virgin.  The  Ironsides  of  England,  chanting 
a  psalm  as  they  went  into  action,  were  no  more  devout. 

And  thus  forearmed,  the  Spaniards  attacked  with  a  fervor 
which  soon  overthrew  the  enemy.  They  found  rich  booty 
in  Cemaco's  village,  which  in  accordance  with  their  vow  they 
rechristened  "  Santa  Maria  de  la  Antigua  del  Darien."  In 
a  few  days  they  had  gathered,  besides  large  quantities  of  food, 

174  PANAMA 

gold  which  amounted,  according  to  living's  estimate,  to  over 

They  despatched  the  brigantine  to  San  Sebastien  to  bring 
over  the  rest  of  their  company  to  this  El  Dorado.  The 
Bachelor  Enciso  lost  his  head  as  soon  as  it  was  crowned  with 
prosperity.  His  mind  was  so  befogged  with  legal  lore,  that 
he  thought  it  more  important  to  draw  up  a  code  than  to  plant 
corn.  His  enthusiasm  for  the  intricate  legal  system  of  Spain 
blinded  his  eyes  to  the  patent  fact  that  laws  are  made  for 
a  community,  and  that  the  object  of  founding  a  colony  was 
not  to  create  a  new  field  for  legislation.  It  would  be  hard 
to  imagine  a  body  of  men  less  likely  to  sympathize  with  his 
respect  for  law.  The  results  of  putting  new  wine  into  old 
bottles  are  mild  indeed  when  compared  to  what  happened 
when  this  aspiring  judge  announced  his  fiscal  regulations. 
The  colonists  were  not  sufficiently  civilized  to  allow  him  to 
take  by  law  what  they  had  won  by  sweat  and  blood. 

Once  more  Vasco  Nunez  stepped  forward  with  a  popular 
suggestion.  Caution  was  the  most  salient  characteristic 
of  this  man.  There  was  none  of  the  Conquist adores  who 
could  more  blithely  burn  his  boats  behind  him  in  case  of 
need.  But  Balboa  never  did  it  recklessly.  And  especially 
in  the  wily  business  of  political  intrigue  he  was  loathe  to 
commit  himself.  He  realized,  as  Bancroft  says,  that  "law 
is  safer  than  hemp  for  hanging,  even  lawyers!"  He  could 
easily  have  persuaded  the  colonists  to  dump  Enciso  into  the 
sea.  He  chose  a  subtler  way. 

When  the  malcontents  grumbled  about  these  bewildering 
laws,  Vasco  Nunez  would  take  them  aside,  and  ask  why  they 
submitted  to  Enciso's  arrogance.  "  He  was  Alcalde  Mayor 
for  Ojeda,  in  Nueva  Andalucfa.  We've  crossed  the  Darien 
River.  This  place  is  in  Castilla  del  Oro,  Nicuesa's  territory. 
Enciso  hasn't  a  legal  leg  to  stand  on." 

Vasco  Nunez  could  truthfully  say  that  he  had  obeyed  all 

SANTA    MARIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    175 

of  the  Bachelor's  laws;  he  had  not  rebelled.  But  the  colonists 
accepted  his  hint  with  a  whoop.  They  refused  to  recognize 
Enciso,  and  held  elections.  They  chose  for  Alcaldes  Vasco 
Nunez  and  Martin  Zamudio. 

However,  things  went  no  more  smoothly  for  the  new  gov- 
ernment of  Santa  Maria  than  formerly.  Vasco  Nunez  was 
following  a  very  definite  policy.  First  of  all  he  ingratiated 
himself  with  the  common  soldiers.  He  was  naturally  fear- 
less, he  knew  exactly  when  to  be  theatrical.  He  had  remark- 
able tact  for  smoothing  out  quarrels  between  individuals. 
He  was  scrupulously  just  in  divisions  of  the  spoil.  And 
above  all,  he  was  tireless  in  providing  for  the  comfort  of  his 
men.  The  historian  Oviedo,  who  always  put  the  worst 
construction  on  every  act  of  Balboa,  admits:  "No  chieftain 
who  ever  went  to  the  Indies  equalled  him  in  these  respects. " 

He  was  a  master  hand  at  intrigue.  It  was  his  policy  to 
stay  behind  the  scenes  in  the  political  dissension  which,  even 
more  than  the  Indians,  kept  life  in  Santa  Maria  from  becom- 
ing monotonous.  He  accomplished  his  ends  by  discreetly 
dropping  a  word  or  two  where  he  knew  it  would  be  repeated. 

In  public  his  position  was  always  correct.  He  sympathized 
with  the  despoiled  Enciso  and  advised  him  to  take  the  colony 
back  to  San  Sebastien,  knowing  very  well  that  the  colony 
would  not  go.  Zamudio,  his  rival  Alcalde,  was  a  common 
soldier.  Vasco  Nunez  was  hail  fellow  well  met  with  him 
and  his  kind.  But  he  took  pains  to  impress  his  rival's 
humble  birth  on  the  strong  men  of  the  colony  who  were 
pleased  to  consider  themselves  gentlemen.  Apparently  unin- 
terested in  political  brawls — Balboa  kept  them  at  white  heat. 

In  the  middle  of  November,  1510,  the  people  of  Santa 
Maria  were  surprised  one  morning  to  hear  the  sound  of 
cannons  faintly  rumbling  across  the  water  from  San  Sebas- 
tien. They  at  once  started  great  smudges  of  smoke  to 
attract  attention.  Perhaps  it  was  Ojeda  come  back  with 

176  PANAMA 

reinforcements.  How  the  Bachelor's  hopes  must  have  soared 

It  turned  out  to  be  Rodrigo  Enriquez  de  Colmenares  with 
a  relief  expedition  for  Nicuesa.  When  he  arrived  off  the 
little  settlement  he  was  given  a  rousing  welcome.  With  an 
abundant  grant  of  provisions,  the  old  familiar  foods  they 
had  lacked  so  long,  he  established  his  popularity.  Hearing 
of  their  political  dissensions,  he  urged  them  to  accept  Nicuesa 
as  their  governor.  Any  change  seemed  good  to  the  volatile 
company,  and  they  selected  two  ambassadors — Diego  de 
Albites  and  the  Bachelor  Corral — to  accompany  Colmenares 
on  his  hunt  for  Nicuesa,  to  tender  their  allegiance  and  a 
request  that  he  should  come  and  rule  over  them. 

Colmenares  cruised  along  westward  and  at  Nombre  de 
Dios  found  Nicuesa  and  the  handful  of  men  who  were  left 
from  his  seven  hundred. 

But  to  Nicuesa  even  more  grateful  than  the  sight  of  the 
rescuing  ships  was  the  news  that  there  was  a  rich  and  thriv- 
ing town  in  his  domains  which  invited  him  to  rule  over  it. 

The  unfortunate  man's  pride  swelled  up  like  a  balloon. 
The  choicest  of  Colmenares's  provisions  were  turned  into  a 
banquet.  Dressed  in  new  clothes,  Nicuesa  recovered  his 
old  time  gayety.  Presiding  at  the  feast,  he  lifted  a  baked 
fowl  on  a  fork  and  carved  it  skilfully  in  the  air.  It  was  the 
trick  which  in  happier  days  had  won  him  the  position  of 
Royal  Carver.  The  Spanish  wine,  after  long  months  of 
deprivation,  went  to  his  head.  He  talked  grandiloquently 
about  what  he  would  do  in  Santa  Maria,  how  he  would 
enforce  all  the  fiscal  laws  and  make  everyone  give  an  exact 
account  of  their  booty.  He  would  teach  this  upstart  Balboa 
his  place  and  as  for  Zamudio,  he  was  a  relative  of  the  traitor 
Lope  de  Olano.  Colmenares,  having  been  in  Santa  Maria, 
and  knowing  the  temper  of  the  men,  tried  to  stop  his  master's 
indiscreet  flow  of  words.  But  Nicuesa,  after  his  long  mis- 

SANTA    MARIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    177 

fortunes,  would  at  least  enjoy  the  glory  of  talking.  The 
two  ambassadors  listened  to  it  gloomily.  What  they  heard 
from  the  survivors  of  Nicuesa's  expedition  did  not  give  them 
any  large  encouragement. 

The  governor  had  the  insanity  to  let  them  start  back  to 
Santa  Maria  before  him.  The  gist  of  their  report  to  the 
colonists  was  that  Nicuesa  promised  to  be  a  worse  tyrant 
than  either  Enciso  or  the  present  Alcaldes. 

It  had  been  a  serious  mistake  for  Nicuesa  to  allow  these 
ambassadors  to  go  home  ahead  of  him.  But  just  along 
the  line  of  such  blunders  lay  his  greatest  talent.  When  at 
last  he  left  Nombre  de  Dios,  he  stopped  along  the  way  to 
indulge  his  passion  for  making  slave  raids.  After  much 
loitering  he  sent  a  man  ahead  named  Juan  de  Caicedo  to 
prepare  the  colony  for  his  august  arrival. 

Later  events  proved  that  seventeen  of  the  sixty  men  left 
from  his  expedition  were  loyal  to  him.  But  Caicedo  was  not 
one  of  these.  Arrived  at  Santa  Maria,  he  told  worse  stories 
of  Nicuesa's  tyranny  and  ingratitude  than  Albites  and  Corral 
had  told. 

"What  folly  has  possessed  you,"  he  demanded,  "when 
you  were  your  own  masters  and  free  to  send  for  this  mean- 
spirited  tyrant  to  enslave  you." 

Distressed  by  such  disquieting  news,  the  colonists,  as  they 
always  did  in  a  pinch,  turned  to  Vasco  Nunez.  He  promptly 
replied  that  Nicuesa  was  undoubtedly  their  lawful  governor. 
He  even  went  to  the  lengths  of  having  a  notary  record  the 
fact  that  he  had  made  public  acknowledgment  of  his  fealty. 
But  in  secret  he  pointed  out  to  his  friends  that  if  they  had 
been  foolish  to  invite  Nicuesa,  they  would  be  doubly  so  to 
receive  him. 

When  at  last  the  Governor's  ship  reached  the  harbor  he 
found  all  the  people  gathered  on  the  beach.  But  very  quickly 
he  discovered  that  they  had  not  assembled  to  welcome  him. 

178  PANAMA 

The  public  prosecutor  warned  him  not  to  land  if  he  valued 
his  life,  and  advised  him  to  go  back  where  he  had  come  from. 
Nicuesa  tried  to  argue  but  the  unruly  crowd  only  jeered  at 
him.  When  night  came  on  he  was  forced  to  put  out  to  sea, 
but  in  the  morning  he  returned,  his  pride  so  humbled  that  he 
asked  them  to  receive  him  as  a  companion,  if  they  did  not 
want  him  as  a  governor.  For  some  time  they  bickered.  At 
length  he  thought  it  safe  to  land,  but  he  had  no  sooner  put 
foot  on  shore  when  he  was  attacked.  He,  besides  being  a 
dainty  carver  of  royal  meats,  was  a  good  runner.  As  he 
had  owed  his  early  advancement  to  the  first  accomplishment, 
so  now  he  owed  his  life  to  his  fleetness  of  foot. 

Exactly  what  game  Vasco  Nunez  was  playing  in  all  this 
it  is  impossible  to  determine  at  this  late  day.  There  is  a 
theory  for  almost  every  historian.  It  seems  most  probable 
to  me  that  he  had  planned  to  let  things  go  until  Nicuesa  was 
badly  scared  and  then  to  appear  as  his  rescuer,  so  to  win 
his  gratitude  and  preferment  over  his  rivals  Enciso  and 
Zamudio.  At  all  events  he  now  offered  shelter  and  protec- 
tion to  the  harassed  governor.  But  if  this  had  been  his 
game,  he  had  let  things  escape  from  his  control. 

Zamudio  saw  clearly  that  if  at  this  juncture  Balboa  was 
allowed  to  make  friends  with  Nicuesa,  he,  Zamudio,  who  had 
been  most  open  in  the  sedition,  would  fare  very  shabbily.  He 
had  gone  too  far  to  stop.  So  he  did  what  he  could  to  whip 
up  the  excitement  of  the  mob. 

Nicuesa,  all  his  arrogance  wilted,  begged  that  they  would 
keep  him  as  a  prisoner,  saying  that  he  would  rather  stay  in 
chains  than  return  to  the  death-hole  of  Nombre  de  Dios. 
But  Zamudio  was  committed  to  Nicuesa's  destruction.  He 
forced  him  and  the  seventeen  followers  who  were  loyal  to 
him  into  the  rottenest  brigantine  of  their  little  fleet  and  forced 
him  to  sail.  It  was  in  March,  1511,  that  Nicuesa's  boat  left 
the  harbor  of  Santa  Maria.  It  was  never  heard  from  again. 

SANTA    MARIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    179 

But  whether  or  not  Balboa's  plans  had  gone  wrong  in  this 
matter  he  set  to  work  at  once  to  get  rid  of  his  other  two  rivals. 
He  persuaded  Zamudio  to  bring  a  charge  against  Enciso  of 
"illegal  usurpation  of  authority."  There  is  considerable 
grim  humor  in  the  thought  of  this  Bachelor  of  Law  arraigned 
before  Judge  Lynch.  The  two  Alcaldes,  who  had  decided 
on  the  sentence  before  the  trial  opened,  allowed  Enciso  to 
talk  and  argue  himself  out.  If  he  had  been  a  truly  dignified 
man  he  would  have  refused  to  take  so  grotesque  a  charge 
seriously,  but  it  is  probable  that  he  gave  his  tormentors 
considerable  sport.  In  common  justice  we  must  hope  that 
Balboa  made  the  most  of  this  opportunity  to  bait  a  lawyer, 
for  later  they  had  their  chance  at  him.  The  court  found 
the  "usurper"  guilty,  sentenced  him  to  prison  and  confis- 
cated his  goods. 

Balboa  realized  that  a  prisoner,  in  a  community  which  is 
likely  any  day  to  storm  its  Bastile,  is  a  constant  source  of 
danger.  So  he  released  the  Bachelor  on  his  promise  to  leave 
for  Spain  by  the  first  boat.  It  was  now  Zamudio's  turn. 

Herrera  writes:  "Basco  Nunez  considering  that  the  wrongs 
done  to  James  de  Nicuesa  and  Enciso  would  some  Time  rise 
in  Judgment  and  to  engross  all  the  Government  in  his  own 
Hands,  found  means  to  persuade  the  other  Alcalde,  Za- 
mudio, his  Partner,  to  go  into  Spain,  to  give  an  Account  of 
the  Colony  there  settled  and  the  Reason  there  was  to  hope 
that  the  Country  would  produce  great  Wealth." 

Just  what  means  Balboa  found  to  persuade  Zamudio  to 
get  out  of  the  way,  we  do  not  know. 

But  he  at  once  fitted  up  the  best  of  his  brigantines,  put 
Enciso  and  Zamudio  aboard  it,  and  gave  the  command  to  a 
friend  named  Valdivia.  To  this  friend  Valdivia  he  also 
intrusted  the  King's  fifth  of  all  their  booty,  and  letters  and 
rich  presents  to  Diego  Columbus,  the  Governor  of  Santo 
Domingo,  and  to  Passamonte,  the  Royal  Treasurer  at  Santo 

180  PANAMA 

Domingo.  It  was  thus  ever  his  custom  to  play  both  the 
black  and  the  red. 

Diego  Columbus  had  been  reinstated  in  the  governorship  of 
Santo  Domingo  and  in  most  of  his  father's  titles  and  honors. 
He  was  laying  claim,  under  the  Great  Admiral's  first  con- 
tract with  the  Spanish  throne,  to  all  lands  which  his  father 
had  discovered.  If  the  lawsuit  was  decided  in  his  favor 
Castilla  del  Oro  would  be  under  his  jurisdiction.  If  the 
King  won  the  suit,  as  was  the  ordinary  outcome  of  chivalric 
justice,  it  would  be  well  to  have  "fixed"  Passamonte,  who 
had  great  influence. 

Valdivia  was  instructed  to  do  all  in  his  power,  with  the 
aid  of  these  bribes  and  the  promise  of  more,  to  get  some  sort 
of  legalization  for  Balboa's  government. 

The  departure  of  this  ship  left  Vasco  Nunez  in  undis- 
puted control  of  the  colony.  It  was  beginning  to  take  on 
the  appearance  of  a  town.  The  Indian  huts  had  been  re- 
placed by  substantial  houses,  laid  out  in  rectangular  streets. 
In  the  center  was  a  church,  the  first  on  the  American  con- 
tinent. A  Franciscan  monastery  was  in  process  of  construc- 
tion. The  plaza  before  the  church,  as  was  the  case  in  most 
early  Spanish  towns,  was  adorned  with  a  bull-pen  prison 
and  a  gallows. 

Lack  of  provisions  had  wrecked  every  other  colony  on  the 
Mainland.  Vasco  Nunez  started  his  men  in  on  agriculture. 
He  was  almost  the  only  one  of  the  Conquistadores  who  had 
an  eye  for  such  details.  He  was  as  hungry  for  gold,  as  keen 
for  adventure  as  the  next  one,  but  he  always  looked  out  for 
the  comfort  of  his  men. 

But  he  had  no  intention  to  embellish  a  colony  for  some  one 
else  to  govern.  And  he  knew  that  the  best  way  to  establish 
his  position,  the  way  to  justify  his  past  and  make  sure  his 
future,  was  by  action — action  which  would  make  gold  flow 
into  the  coffers  of  the  King. 

Copyright  by  Fishbctnsh. 



SANTA    MAEIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DABIEN    181 

Herrera  gives  this  account  of  his  first  move: 

"Basco  Nunez  sent  Francis  Pizarro  with  six  Men  to  dis- 
cover the  Country,  who,  having  travelled  three  Leagues  up 
the  River,  was  attacked  by  four  hundred  Indians,  under 
Command  of  the  Cazique  Zemaco,  and  hard  press'd  with  their 
Arrows  and  Stones,  but  they  closing,  ripp'd  up  the  bellies  of 
one  hundred  and  fifty  of  them,  with  their  Swords,  and 
wounded  many  more,  the  Rest  fled."  You  are  asked  to  accept 
these  details  on  the  honor  of  the  official  historian  of  the 
Spanish  court! 

Pizarro  returned  to  town  with  the  news  of  his  victory  and 
also  with  the  admission  that  a  wounded  Spaniard  named 
Hernan  had  been  left  behind.  This  gave  Vasco  Nunez  a 
chance  for  one  of  those  theatrical  plays  which  endeared  him 
to  the  rough  soldiers,  and  incidentally  threw  some  discredit 
on  a  rival. 

"Go  instantly,"  he  shouted,  "and  bring  me  Francisco 
Hernan,  and,  as  you  value  your  life,  never  again  leave  one 
of  my  soldiers  alive  on  the  field  of  battle." 

The  wounded  soldier  was  brought  back.  Pizarro  had  to 
accept  this  stinging  rebuke  in  silence.  But  he  was  the  kind 
who  remembered  such  things. 

Meanwhile  Colmenares,  who  had  transferred  his  allegiance 
to  Vasco  Nunez  after  the  fiasco  of  Nicuesa,  had  been  sent 
up  the  coast  to  Nombre  de  Dios  to  bring  the  remnant  of  that 
colony  to  Santa  Maria.  As  they  were  returning,  they  were 
surprised  to  see  two  painted,  naked  savages  come  down  on 
the  beach  and  hail  them  in  purest  Castilian.  They  turned 
out  to  be  two  Spaniards,  who  many  months  before  had 
incurred  the  anger  of  Nicuesa  and  had  fled  to  the  jungle. 
They  had  been  adopted  into  the  tribe  of  a  powerful  Cacique 
named  Careta.  They  gave  a  glowing  account  of  the  riches 
of  the  chief's  village.  And  it  was  arranged  that  one  should 
return  to  Careta  and  prepare  him  to  receive  the  Spaniards 

182  PANAMA 

hospitably.  The  other  came  on  to  Santa  Maria  and  told  the 
story  to  Balboa. 

The  arrival  of  this  man  was  a  great  aid  to  the  Spaniards. 
His  knowledge  of  Indian  languages  was  invaluable. 

The  united  colony  now  numbered  over  two  hundred  and 
fifty.  By  leaving  the  half-starved  men  of  Nicuesa's  com- 
pany to  guard  the  town,  Vasco  Nunez  could  put  about  one 
hundred  and  fifty  able?  seasoned  warriors  in  the  field.  This 
was  enough  for  him  to  set  out  on  his  career  of  conquest. 

The  fame  of  Cortez's  and  Pizarro's  conquests  have  so 
echoed  in  history  that  one  hears  little  of  Balboa's  conquest 
of  the  Isthmus.  The  enemy  he  had  to  meet  was  not  so 
highly  organized  as  either  the  Aztecs  or  Peruvians.  But  this 
very  fact  made  them  harder  to  hold  in  subjection.  Both 
Pizarro  and  Cortez,  after  the  dashing  raids,  which  put  the 
sovereigns  in  their  hands,  were  very  largely  assisted  in 
maintaining  their  power  by  the  extreme  centralization  of 
nations  they  had  conquered.  But  the  scattered  Isthmian 
tribes  had  no  centre,  which  once  subdued,  held  the  rest  in  line. 

Further,  Balboa's  conquest  was  not  marred  by  the  indis- 
criminate, unnecessary  bloodshed  of  the  later  campaigns. 
He  never  massacred  the  natives  when  he  could  accomplish 
his  aims  without  doing  so,  a  really  distinctive  honor  among 
the  Conquist adores. 

From  the  outset  he  followed  a  definite  policy.  On  his 
first  encounter  with  a  tribe  he  killed  enough  to  make  them 
sue  for  peace.  And  then  when  they  were  expecting  him 
to  slaughter  the  rest  of  them,  he  suddenly  offered  them  peace 
and  gave  them  assistance  against  their  pet  enemies.  As  his 
empire  expanded  there  was  always  war  on  the  frontier  and 
peace  within.  Very  seldom  did  any  of  the  conquered  tribes 
revolt,  and  during  his  days  of  power  he  never  pushed  the  na- 
tives to  the  desperation  which  forced  a  war  of  extermination. 

His  campaign  against  Careta  was  typical.     Having  been 

SANTA    MABIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    183 

hospitably  received  and  feasted,  he  left  at  twilight,  to  return 
in  the  dead  of  night.  He  put  most  of  the  village  to  the  sword 
and  returned  to  Santa  Maria  with  Careta  and  his  family 
and  a  number  of  prisoners,  also  a  large  booty.  But  instead 
of  making  a  slave  of  the  old  chief  or  chopping  off  his  ears  as 
seems  to  have  been  the  ordinary  Spanish  practice,  Vasco 
Nunez  made  an  alliance  with  him  and  started  out  with  his 
men  to  reduce  the  Cacique  Ponca,  Careta's  special  enemy. 
Careta  was  so  much  touched  by  this  unexpected  leniency 
that  he  gave  his  daughter  to  Balboa  and  was  his  steadfast 
friend  in  the  future.  Although  Vasco  Nunez  never  married 
the  girl  according  to  the  Christian  rites,  Herrera  testifies 
that  "he  always  lov'd  and  cherish'd  her  very  much." 

After  overthrowing  Ponca,  Balboa  made  a  friendly  visit 
to  the  village  of  Comagre,  the  greatest  cacique  of  the  coast. 
His  tribe  numbered  over  ten  thousand  and  he  had  at  least 
three  thousand  warriors.  Herrera  tells  us  that:  "His  palace 
was  more  remarkable  and  better  built  that  any  that  had  yet 
been  seen  either  on  the  Islands  or  the  little  that  was  known  of 
the  Continent,  being  one  hundred  and  fifty  Paces  in  Length 
and  eighty  in  Breadth  ...  so  beautifully  wrought, 
that  the  Spaniards  were  amaz'd  at  the  Sight  of  it,  and  could 
not  express  the  Manner  and  Curiosity  of  it.  There  were  in 
it  several  Chambers  and  Apartments,  and  one  that  was  like 
a  Buttery  was  full  of  such  Provisions  as  the  Country  afforded, 
as  Bread,  Venison,  Swine's  Flesh,  etc.  There  was  another 
large  Room  like  a  Cellar,  full  of  earthen  Vessels,  containing 
Several  sorts  of  white  and  red  Liquors,  made  of  Indian 
Wheat,  Roots,  a  kind  of  Palm-Tree  and  other  Ingredients, 
the  which  Liquors  the  Spaniards  commended,  when  they 
drank  them." 

Here  by  peaceful  means  the  Spaniards  secured  much  gold, 
and  more  important  information.  Panciaco,  one  of  the 
seven  sons  of  the  Cacique,  seeing  them  quarrelling  over  the 

184  PANAMA 

division  of  the  gold,  told  them  of  rich  countries  to  the  south 
on  the  border  of  a  great  sea  only  a  few  days'  journey  away. 
He  offered  to  guide  them  to  it,  but  said  that  the  way  was 
blocked  by  several  warlike  tribes  and  that  they  could  not 
hope  to  pass  with  less  than  a  thousand  warriors. 

This  was  the  first  authentic  information  which  had  reached 
European  ears  of  the  Pacific  Ocean.  Vasco  Nunez  had  found 
the  thing  he  was  to  do. 

Returned  to  Santa  Maria  they  found  that  Valdivia  had 
returned  from  Santo  Domingo  with  a  small  stock  of  pro- 
visions. He  also  brought  a  letter  from  Diego  Columbus 
authorizing  Balboa  to  act  as  his  lieutenant.  The  real  value 
of  the  document  hung  in  the  scales  of  justice  in  Madrid, 
and  on  the  other  side  of  the  scales  rested  the  heavy  fist  of 
the  King.  However,  with  no  title  at  all  Vasco  Nunez  could 
not  afford  to  scon7  at  an  uncertain  one. 

Valdivia  was  again  sent  to  Santo  Domingo  with  letters  and 
presents  to  the  governor  and  to  the  royal  treasurer,  with 
urgent  requests  for  a  thousand  men  that  the  exploration  of 
the  country  might  be  pushed  forward.  Besides  these  official 
bribes  and  the  King's  fifth,  most  of  the  colonists  sent  their 
private  shares  of  the  booty. 

One  of  the  earliest  books  on  America,  printed  in  English, 
"The  Decades  of  the  newe  worlde  of  west  India.  .  .  . 
Wrytten  in  the  Latine  tounge  by  Peter  Martyr  of  Angleria, 
and  translated  into  Englysshe  by  Richarde  Eden,  Londoni 
.  .  .  1555,"  contains  a  glowing  description  of  the  treasure 
sent  on  this  ship.  It  is  a  good  example  of  queer  diction,  and 
erratic  spelling,  from  which  our  Anglo-Saxon  forbears  re- 
ceived their  first  ideas  of  the  New  World. 

"The  sameValdiuia  was  also  sent  on  this  message, caryinge 
with  hym  to  the  Kinges  treasourers  (hauinge  theyr  office  of 
recepte  in  Hispaniola)  three  hundreth  poundes  weyght  of 
golde  after  eyght  ounces  to  the  pounde,  for  the  fyfte  portion 

SANTA    MAEIA    DE    LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DABIEN    185 

dewe  to  the  Kynges  escheker.  This  pounde  of  VIII  vnces, 
the  Spanyardes  caule  Marcha,  whiche  in  weyght  amounteth 
to  fyftie  pieces  of  golde  cauled  Castellani.  .  .  .  We 
conclude,  therefore,  that  the  sume  hereof,  was  XV  thousande 
of  those  peeces  of  golde  cauled  Castellani.  And  thus  is  it 
apparente  by  this  accompte,  that  they  receaued  of  the  bar- 
barous kynges,  a  thousande  and  fyue  hundreth  poundes  of 
eyght  ounces  to  the  pounde  redy  wrought  in  sundry  kyndes 
of  ouches,  as  cheynes,  braselets,  tablets,  and  plates,  both  to 
hange  before  theyr  brestes.  and  also  at  theyr  eares  and  nose- 

Immediately  after  the  departure  of  Valdivia,  Vasco  Nunez 
set  out  on  a  new  campaign,  with  160  men.  This  time  he 
took  the  opposite  direction,  going  up  the  river  Darien.  On 
the  whole  it  was  a  successful  raid,  although  two  canoes  over- 
loaded with  booty  were  upset  by  the  swift  current. 

But  a  branch  colony  which  he  tried  to  establish  up  the 
river  came  to  grief.  Bartholome"  Hurtado  was  left  in  com- 
mand of  thirty  men.  Within  a  few  days  half  were  sick. 
Hurtado  sent  his  invalids,  with  twenty-four  captives  and 
all  but  ten  of  his  well  men  down  stream  in  canoes.  They 
were  attacked  and  overpowered  by  their  old  enemy  Cemaco. 
Two  of  them  managed  to  swim  under  water  to  the  bank  and 
so  escaped  alive.  They  rejoined  Hurtado,  who,  having 
heard  from  other  sources  of  a  confederation  of  five  tribes 
who  were  planning  to  throw  off  the  Spanish  yoke,  hurried 
down  to  Santa  Maria  to  warn  the  colony.  Balboa  seems  to 
have  scorned  this  warning,  thinking  it  inspired  by  cowardice. 
But  the  rumor  was  verified  from  another  quarter. 

Peter  Martyr  referring  to  the  threatened  massacre  says  it 
"had  surely  come  to  passe,  if  it  had  not  byn  otherwyse 
hyndered  by  gods  providence.  It  is  therefore  ascrybed  to  a 
myracle.  .  .  .  Vaschus  Nunnez  therefore,  who  rather 
by  poure  than  by  election  vsurped  the  gouernaunce  in 

186  PANAMA 

Dariena,  beinge  a  master  of  fence,  and  rather  a  rasshe 
royster  then  politike  capitayne  (althowgh  fortune  sumtyme 
fauoureth  fooles)  amonge  many  women  which  in  dyuers  of 
these  regions  he  had  taken  captyue,  had  one  whiche  in  fauore 
and  bewtie  excelled  all  other.  To  this  woman  her  owne 
brother  often  tymes  resorted,  who  was  also  dryuen  oute  of 
his  countrey  with  kynge  Cemacchus,  with  whom  he  was 
very  familier  and  one  of  his  chiefe  gentelmen.  Amonge  other 
communications  whiche  he  had  with  his  syster  whom  he 
loued  entierly,  he  vttered  these  woordes.  My  deare  and 
welbeloued  syster,  gyue  eare  to  my  sayinges,  and  keepe  moste 
secreatelye  that  whiche  I  wyll  declare  vnto  yowe,  yf  youe 
desyre  youre  oune  welth  and  myne,  and  the  prosperitie  of  oure 
contrey  and  kynsefolkes.  .  .  .  And  therefore  admon- 
yshed  her,  at  the  daye  appoynted  by  sume  occasion  to  con- 
ueigh  herselfe  oute  of  the  way,  leste  shee  shuld  bee  slayne 
in  the  confusion  of  bataile.  .  .  .  And  thus  shewinge  his 
syster  the  daye  assigned  to  the  slowghter,  he  departed.  But 
the  younge  woman  .  .  .  forgettinge  her  parentes,  her 
kynsfolkes,  her  countrey  and  all  her  frindes,  ye  and  all  the 
kinges  into  whose  throtes  Vaschus  had  thruste  his  sworde, 
she  opened  all  the  matter  unto  hym,  and  conceled  none  of 
those  things  whiche  her  vndiscrete  broother  had  declared  to 

Not  all  the  contemporaneous  writers  have  claimed  that  this 
girl — she  had  been  baptized  with  name  Fulvia — was  one  of 
Balboa's  household.  In  fact,  with  the  exception  of  this 
passage  from  Peter  Martyr,  who  got  all  of  his  information 
from  Enciso,  there  is  little  evidence  that  Vasco  Nunez  was 
the  girl's  lover. 

Many  later  historians  have  seized  this  opportunity  to 
relieve  their  dry  record  of  facts  by  a  bit  of  romancing.  They 
have  consecrated  many  pages  to  the  tender  struggle  in  the 
breast  of  this  fair  savage  between  her  love  and  her  duty  to 

SANTA    MAEIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    187 

her  country.  But  in  spite  of  all  embroidery  it  is  a  sad 
and  sordid  story. 

That  these  simple-minded  Indian  girls  should  have  become 
mistresses  to  the  conquerors — they  were  more  than  half 
slaves — is  small  wonder.  But  that  the  Spaniards  should 
have  elaborately  received  them  into  the  church  by  baptism 
before  debauching  them  is  perhaps  the  most  striking  example 
of  their  bizarre  attitude  toward  religion. 

This  Fulvia  betrayed  the  conspiracy  and  at  the  instigation 
of  the  Spaniards,  enticed  her  brother  back  into  the  settlement 
and  turned  him  over  to  them  to  be  tortured  into  confession. 
Working  on  the  information  wracked  out  of  this  young  man, 
who  had  loved  his  sister  too  well,  Vasco  Nunez  was  able  to 
surprise  the  confederated  chiefs.  Only  his  implacable  old 
enemy  Cemaco  escaped. 

So  thorough  was  Balboa's  vengeance  for  this  revolt,  that 
the  "Peace  of  Warsaw"  reigned  about  Santa  Maria. 

Returned  from  this  foray,  the  colonists  began  to  worry 
about  Valdivia.  His  boat  was  overdue.  It  was  at  the 
bottom  of  the  ocean,  with  all  their  treasure.  It  had  been 
driven  by  storms  onto  the  coast  of  Yucatan.  So  worried 
did  the  colony  become  at  the  lack  of  news  from  Santo 
Domingo  that  they  resolved  to  send  out  their  last  ship. 
Colmenares  and  Caicedo  were  chosen  as  commissioners. 
They  sailed  in  October,  1512,  about  two  years  after  Col- 
menares had  first  arrived  with  reinforcements  for  Nicuesa. 

For  some  time  the  colony  had  been  kept  busy  by  fighting. 
Now  peace  had  been  established,  and  Vasco  Nunez  did  not 
have  a  large  enough  force  to  launch  on  his  more  ambitious 
plan  of  crossing  to  the  Southern  sea.  So  now  in  their 
idleness  the  colonists  fell  to  bickering  again.  The  cause 
of  the  trouble  was  the  great  pile  of  gold  which  they  had 
brought  in  from  the  Darien  raids  and  which  had  not  yet 
been  distributed.  Vasco  Nunez  held  things  together  as 

188  PANAMA 

long  as  he  could.  In  their  present  excited  condition  it  was 
evident  that  even  the  Archangel  Gabriel  could  not  have 
divided  the  spoil  to  every  one's  satisfaction.  When  he  could 
keep  them  from  it  no  longer,  preferring  to  have  them  cut 
each  other's  throats  to  making  himself  unpopular,  he  left 
the  town  one  night  and  went  on  a  hunting  expedition  with 
his  father-in-law,  Careta. 

The  factions  exploded  at  once.  There  was  consideraole 
rioting  and  some  bloodshed.  After  the  mob  had  vented 
most  of  its  spleen,  the  reliable  friends  of  Vasco  Nunez  began 
pointing  out  the  folly  of  civil  war  over  a  few  hundred  pounds 
of  gold  when  there  was  so  much  more  to  be  won.  Of  course 
this  riotous  distribution  had  been  unfair.  It  took  a  cool- 
headed  man  like  Vasco  Nunez  to  be  just.  And  think  of  the 
rich  plunder  to  be  gained  under  his  leadership  as  soon  as 
reinforcements  came.  With  such  words  as  these  his  friends 
were  busy.  When  the  time  was  ripe  Balboa  returned  as  if 
nothing  had  happened.  It  was  a  typical  piece  of  his  diplom- 
acy. He  was  tighter  in  the  saddle  than  ever  before. 

The  reconciliation  had  hardly  taken  place  when  two  ships 
entered  the  harbor.  They  came  from  Diego  Columbus  and 
were  laden  down  with  provisions  and  bore  a  hundred  and 
fifty  new  recruits.  Not  the  thousand,  Vasco  Nunez  had 
asked  for,  but  that  letter  had  not  reached  its  destination. 

On  the  ships  came  two  letters  for  Balboa.  One  was  from 
Passamonte,  the  King's  treasurer.  It  contained  the  long- 
desired  Royal  Commission,  appointing  him  Governor  of 
Castilla  del  Oro.  At  last  he  had  firm  ground  under  his  feet. 
But  the  vision  of  power  which  this  letter  opened  for  him 
received  a  severe  blow  from  the  other  letter.  It  was  from 
Zamudio.  Things  had  not  gone  well  with  him  at  court. 
Enciso's  legal  training  stood  him  in  better  stead  in  Madrid 
than  it  had  in  Darien.  He  had  easily  won  the  race  to  royal 
favor.  Zamudio  was  having  a  hard  time  to  keep  out  of  jail. 

SANTA    MARIA    DE   LA    ANTIGUA    DEL   DAEIEN    189 

And  he  warned  Vasco  Nunez  that  warrants  summoning  him 
to  Madrid  to  answer  Enciso's  charges  were  on  the  way. 

The  first  letter  Balboa  published  broadcast;  the  other  he 
folded  away  carefully.  In  the  midst  of  the  general  rejoicing 
that  evening,  he  was  busy  figuring  out  how  many  days  he 
could  count  on  between  the  arrival  of  this  letter  from  Zamudi 
and  the  royal  warrants  which  were  following  it. 



THESE  two  letters — the  one  making  Balboa  unquestioned 
master  of  the  colony,  the  other  warning  him  of  the  king's 
anger — hastened  the  discovery  of  the  Pacific. 

The  Indian  chief  Panciaco  had  told  Vasco  Nunez  that  he 
would  need  a  thousand  men  to  force  his  way  through  the 
hostile  tribes  of  the  interior,  and  he  had  been  waiting  until 
he  could  muster  that  number.  With  the  warrant  for  his 
arrest  due  on  the  next  boat  there  was  no  longer  time  for 
waiting.  The  one  avenue  of  escape  from  royal  displeasure 
was  the  trail  of  discovery.  Some  resounding  achievement 
might,  in  spite  of  his  enemies,  win  for  him  the  favor  of  his 
sovereign.  That  the  means  at  his  disposal  were  limited 
would  only  add  to  his  glory. 

On  September  1st,  1513,  Vasco  Nunez  set  out  on  his 
great  adventure. 

He  had  with  him  one  hundred  and  ninety  men.  But 
they  were  picked  men — as  hard  as  the  struggle  through 
which  they  had  survived.  Most  of  them  had  seen  four 
years  service  on  this  coast.  No  one  unfit  could  have 
stood  out  so  long  against  the  famine  and  the  fever. 

Peter  Martyr,  in  the  history  of  the  Indies  which  he  wrote 
for  the  Pope,  gave  Balboa's  followers  this  character: 

"The  owlde  souldiers  of  Dariena,  were  hardened  to  abyde 
all  sorowes,  and  exceadynge  tollerable  of  labour,  heate, 
hunger,  and  watchynge:  In  so  muche  that  merilye  they 
make  their  booste  that  they  have  obserued  a  longer  and 
sharper  lent  than  euer  youre  holinesse  inioyned." 



Vasco  Nunez  explained  to  them  the  object  of  the  expedi- 
tion, giving  them  all  a  chance  to  withdraw.  They  knew 
from  bitter  experience  the  nature  of  the  work  before  them — 
not  one  of  them  turned  back.  It  was  in  crises  like  these 
that  the  spirit  of  these  adventurers,  this  remnant  of  the 
old  chivalry,  shone  brightest.  Heathen  nations  were  to  be 
won  for  the  Church.  Glory  was  calling  them.  And  booty. 
It  is  useless  to  try  to  separate  these  motives.  The  cause  of 
Christ  influenced  some  of  them.  The  "execrable  sed  d'oro" 
inspired  others.  Probably  there  were  none  of  all  the  com- 
pany who  did  not,  in  varying  degree,  feel  the  pull  of  all 
three  motives. 

The  principal  ally  of  this  little  band  was  a  pack  of  blood- 
hounds, and  they  were  no  mean  assistance.  The  horses  of 
the  Spaniards  terrified  the  natives  of  Mexico.  But  horses 
could  not  penetrate  into  the  trackless  jungle.  But  it  is 
doubtful  if  horses  could  have  inspired  more  terror  than 
these  wonderfully  trained  dogs.  How  highly  they  were 
esteemed  by  the  Spaniards  is  witnessed  by  the  fact  that  all 
the  early  chroniclers  give  much  space  to  describing  them. 

Bancroft  gives  the  following  account  of  one  of  them: 
"  Among  the  dogs  which  accompanied  the  expedition  was 
one,  the  property  of  the  commander,  whose  pedigree  and 
metaphysical  traits  and  mighty  deeds  are  minutely  recorded 
by  contemporary  historians.  His  name  was  Leoncico,  little 
lion,  descendant  of  Becerrico,  of  the  Island  of  San  Juan. 
He  was  in  color  red  with  black  snout,  of  medium  size  and 
extraordinary  strength.  In  their  foragings  Leoncico  counted 
as  one  man,  and  drew  captain's  pay  and  share  of  spoils. 
Upon  these  conditions  his  master  frequently  loaned  him; 
and  during  the  wars  of  Darien  he  gained  for  Vasco  Nunez 
more  than  one  thousand  pesos  de  oro.  He  was  considered 
more  efficient  than  the  best  soldier,  and  the  savages  stood 
in  the  greatest  terror  of  him.  He  readily  discriminated  be- 

192  PANAMA 

tween  wild  and  tame  Indians.  .  .  .  The  hero  of  many 
a  conflict,  he  was  covered  with  wounds,  ...  he  escaped 
the  wars  to  meet  his  death  by  treacherous  hands.  He  was 

The  company  sailed  along  the  coast  four  days  to  the  vil- 
lage of  Careta — Balboa's  father-in-law.  There  they  rested 
two  days,  recruiting  a  large  force  of  Indians — Irving  esti- 
mates it  at  one  thousand — as  carriers. 

No  one  who  has  not  at  first  hand  struggled  with  the  jungle 
can  begin  to  appreciate  the  difficulties  before  Balboa. 

In  December  of  1853,  Captain  Prevost  of  the  British 
Navy,  with  a  detachment  from  H.  M.  S.  Virago,  landed 
near  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel  with  fourteen  days'  provisions. 
His  intention  was  to  cross  the  Isthmus  to  Caledonia  Bay  on 
the  Caribbean.  He  had  to  give  it  up.  He  recounts  the 
hardships  they  encountered  in  the  "Journal  of  the  London 
Geographical  Society,"  volume  XXIV.  "So  toilsome  was 
our  journey  that  we  spent  fifteen  days  in  performing  a  dis- 
tance of  little  more  than  twenty-six  miles,  having  to  force 
our  slow  and  laborious  path  through  forests  that  seemed  to 
stretch  from  the  Pacific  to  the  Atlantic  shores.  The  trees, 
of  stupendous  size,  were  matted  with  creepers  and  parasiti- 
cal vines,  which  hung  in  festoons  from  tree  to  tree,  forming 
an  almost  impenetrable  net-work,  and  obliging  us  to  hew 
open  a  passage  with  our  axes  every  step  we  advanced" 
(quoted  by  Bancroft). 

There  are  some  parts  of  the  Isthmus  which  have  not  yet 
been  surveyed  by  white  men.  Even  in  the  western  part, 
where  the  Indians  are  completely  pacified  and  hospitable,  it 
would  be  difficult  to  move  a  large  body  of  men.  After  leav- 
ing the  village  of  Careta,  Vasco  Nunez  was  in  hostile  terri- 

Another  serious  handicap  was  that  he  started  toward  the 
end,  the  very  worst,  of  the  wet  season.  The  rains  begin  in 


April  and  do  not  stop  until  the  middle  of  December.  It  is 
inconceivable  that  the  Indians  should  not  have  urged  Bal- 
boa to  postpone  his  expedition  until  the  beginning  of  the 
dry  season.  But  he  could  not  wait. 

The  chronology  of  his  march  is  greatly  confused  in  the 
original  documents.  I  have  accepted  the  dates  given  by 
Bancroft.  While  many  of  them  are  disputable,  they  are  at 
least  consistent  and  as  good  as  any  given  by  other  histo- 

On  the  8th  of  September  the  Spaniards  entered  the  terri- 
tory of  the  Cacique  Ponca.  At  first  the  Indians  fled  before 
the  invaders,  but  Vasco  Nunez,  not  wishing  to  leave  any 
enemy  in  his  rear,  made  a  friendly  alliance  with  them.  He 
stayed  in  Ponca  village,  feting  the  treaty,  until  the  20th. 

For  four  days  they  struggled  in  the  jungle,  part  of  the 
time  without  food.  As  they  entered  the  territory  of  Qua- 
requ£  on  the  24th,  they  were  met  by  the  Cacique  Porque 
and  one  thousand  warriors. 

It  was  the  first  time  that  this  tribe  had  come  into  contact 
with  the  white  man.  Despite  the  wonder  of  firearms  and 
the  bloodhounds,  the  Indians  held  their  ground  stubbornly. 
Several  times  the  half-starved  Spaniards  charged  to  their 
war-cry — "Santiago  y  a  ellos!"  It  was  not  until  Porque 
and  six  hundred  of  his  men  had  fallen  that  the  day  was 
won.  In  the  village  of  the  dead  chieftain  the  adventurers 
found  abundant  provisions. 

On  the  next  day,  the  25th  of  September,  Vasco  Nunez 
climbed  that  "peak  of  Darien"  from  which  he  first  saw  the 

The  old  chroniclers  call  it  "Sierra  Quarequa "— " The 
Mountain  of  Quarequa."  It  has  never  been  definitely 
located.  We  are  by  no  means  sure  of  the  course  of  this 
march.  Hubert  Bancroft  has  tried  to  give  the  precise 
route  and  has  probably  come  as  near  to  it  as  any  modern 

194  PANAMA 

historian  can,  but  much  of  it  is  mere  guesswork.  Careta's 
territory,  from  which  Vasco  Nunez  and  his  company  started, 
was  probably  within  fifty  miles  of  the  Caledonia  Bay  now 
on  the  map.  They  came  finally  to  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel, 
but  the  course  of  their  wanderings  between  these  points  is 

So  hard  had  the  trail  proven  already  that  only  sixty-seven 
of  the  original  one  hundred  and  ninety  were  strong  enough 
to  make  the  ascent  that  morning  with  their  leader.  The 
crest  of  the  mountain  was  almost  bare  of  trees.  About  ten 
in  the  morning,  a  few  hundred  feet  from  the  summit,  Vasco 
Nunez  halted  his  men,  sweating  and  panting  from  the  steep, 
hot  climb.  Without  waiting  for  breath,  he  went  on  up 

If  ever  the  crisis  in  a  man's  life  faced  him  in  the  concrete, 
it  was  the  case  of  Vasco  Nunez.  If  the  Indians  had  deceived 
him,  if  from  the  summit  he  could  see  no  ocean  but  the 
waving  tree  tops,  there  would  be  no  alternative  but  an 
ignominious  return  to  Santa  Maria,  to  await  the  messengers 
of  the  King's  anger.  Disappointment  certainly  meant 
chains,  and  probably  death.  But  if  there  was  a  sea — his 
only  reason  to  hope  for  it  was  the  word  of  an  Indian  against 
all  the  science  of  his  day — if  there  was  a  sea  it  meant  glory 
and  honor  and  position.  It  meant  the  immortal  fame  which 
would  put  him  side  by  side  with  Columbus. 

One  of  the  most  eloquent  and  suggestive  passages  in  the 
works  of  Washington  Irving  is  where  he  describes  this  first 
vision  of  the  new  sea. 

"With  palpitating  heart,  he  ascended  alone  the  bare 
mountain-top.  On  reaching  the  summit,  the  long-desired 
prospect  burst  upon  his  view.  It  was  as  if  a  new  world 
were  unfolded  to  him,  separated  from  all  hitherto  known 
by  this  mighty  barrier  of  mountains.  Below  him  extended 
a  vast  chaos  of  rock  and  forest,  and  green  savannas  and 

THE   SOU  THE  EN   SEA  195 

wandering  streams,  while  at  a  distance  the  waters  of  the 
promised  ocean  glittered  in  the  morning  sun. 

"At  this  glorious  prospect  Vasco  Nunez  sank  upon  his 
knees,  and  poured  out  thanks  to  God,  for  being  the  first 
European  to  whom  it  was  given  to  make  that  great  dis- 
covery. He  then  called  his  people  to  ascend:  'Behold,  my 
friends,'  said  he,  'that  glorious  sight  which  we  have  so 
much  desired.  Let  us  give  thanks  to  God  that  He  has 
granted  us  this  great  honor  and  advantage.  Let  us  pray  to 
Him  to  guide  and  aid  us  to  conquer  the  sea  and  land  which 
we  have  discovered,  and  which  Christian  has  never  entered 
to  preach  the  holy  doctrine  of  the  Evangelists.  As  to  your- 
selves, be  as  you  have  hitherto  been,  faithful  and  true  to 
me,  and  by  the  favor  of  Christ  you  will  become  the  richest 
Spaniards  that  have  ever  come  to  the  Indies;  you  will 
render  the  greatest  services  to  your  king  that  ever  vassal 
rendered  to  his  lord;  and  you  will  have  the  eternal  glory 
and  advantage  of  all  that  is  here  discovered,  conquered,  and 
converted  to  our  holy  Catholic  faith.' 

"The  Spaniards  answered  this  speech  by  embracing  Vasco 
Nunez,  and  promising  to  follow  him  to  death.  Among  them 
was  a  priest,  named  Andreas  de  Veram,  who  lifted  up  his 
voice  and  chanted  Te  Deum  laudamus,  the  usual  anthem  of 
Spanish  discoverers.  The  rest,  kneeling  down,  joined  in  the 
strain  with  pious  enthusiasm  and  tears  of  joy;  and  never 
did  a  more  sincere  oblation  rise  to  the  Deity  from  a  sancti- 
fied altar,  than  from  that  mountain  summit.  It  was  indeed 
one  of  the  most  sublime  discoveries  that  had  yet  been  made 
in  the  New  World,  and  must  have  opened  a  boundless  field 
of  conjecture  to  the  wondering  Spaniards.  The  imagination 
delights  to  picture  forth  the  splendid  confusion  of  their 
thoughts.  Was  this  the  great  Indian  Ocean,  studded  with 
precious  islands,  abounding  in  gold,  in  gems,  in  spices,  and 
bordered  by  the  gorgeous  cities  and  wealthy  marts  of  the 

196  PANAMA 

East?  Or  was  it  some  lonely  sea,  locked  up  in  the  embraces 
of  savage  uncultivated  continents,  and  never  traversed  by  a 
bark,  excepting  the  light  pirogue  of  the  savage?  The 
latter  could  hardly  be  the  case,  for  the  natives  had  told  the 
Spaniards  of  golden  realms,  and  populous  and  powerful  and 
luxurious  nations  upon  its  shores.  Perhaps  it  might  be  bor- 
dered by  various  people,  civilized  in  fact,  though  differing 
from  Europe  in  their  civilization;  who  might  have  peculiar 
laws  and  customs,  and  arts  and  sciences;  who  might  form, 
as  it  were,  a  world  of  their  own,  intercommuning  by  this 
mighty  sea,  and  carrying  on  commerce  between  their  own 
islands  and  continents;  but  who  might  exist  in  total  igno- 
rance and  independence  of  the  other  hemisphere. 

"Such  may  naturally  have  been  the  ideas  suggested  by 
the  sight  of  this  unknown  ocean.  It  was  the  prevalent  be- 
lief of  the  Spaniards,  however,  that  they  were  the  first 
Christians  who  had  made  the  discovery.  Vasco  Nunez, 
therefore,  called  upon  all  present  to  witness  that  he  took 
possession  of  that  sea,  its  islands,  and  surrounding  lands,  in 
the  name  of  the  sovereigns  of  Castile.  And  the  notary  of 
the  expedition  made  a  testimonial  of  the  same,  to  which  all 
present,  to  the  number  of  sixty-seven  men,  signed  their 
names.  He  then  caused  a  fair  and  tall  tree  to  be  cut  down 
and  wrought  into  a  cross,  which  was  elevated  on  the  spot 
whence  he  had  first  beheld  the  sea.  A  mound  of  stones  was 
likewise  piled  up  to  serve  as  a  monument,  and  the  names  of 
the  Castilian  sovereigns  were  carved  on  the  neighboring 
trees.  The  Indians  beheld  all  these  ceremonials  and  re- 
joicings in  silent  wonder,  and  while  they  aided  to  erect  the 
cross,  and  piled  up  the  mound  of  stones,  marvelled  exceed- 
ingly at  the  meaning  of  these  monuments,  little  thinking 
that  they  marked  the  subjugation  of  their  land." 

Indeed  almost  every  historian  of  this  great  event  has  been 
filled  with  eloquent  enthusiasm.  Even  old  Peter  Martyr,  a 


most  cordial  enemy  of  Vasco  Nunez,  forgets  his  spite  when 
he  tells  of  this  expedition, 

The  Era  of  Discovery  is  past.  There  is  nothing  left  now 
that  the  South  Pole  has  been  reached.  But  these  men 
who  looked  at  each  other  "with  a  wild  surmise,"  did  not 
even  know  that  they  stood  upon  a  new  continent.  Many 
years  were  yet  to  pass  before  the  Old  World  scholars  real- 
ized that  America  was  not  Asia.  The  cosmographie  of  the 
day  held  no  room  for  a  new  world.  The  globes  in  use 
represented  too  small  a  world  to  contain  a  new  continent — 
much  less  a  new  ocean,  greater  than  the  one  Columbus 

To-day  we  discover  a  new  star  because  our  reason  tells  us 
it  should  be  there.  Balboa  had  discovered  a  sea  where 
reason  said  there  should  be  none. 

The  next  day  he  started  down  towards  the  coast.  "And 
going  thither" — the  quotation  is  from  John  Ogilby,  Esq., 
His  Britannic  Majesty's  Cosmographer,  Geographick  Printer 
and  Master  of  the  Revels  in  the  Kingdom  of  Ireland,  from  his 
book  "America,"  printed  in  1671 — "he  was  met  by  King 
Chiapes,  leading  an  Army  of  thirty  thousand  Men,  which 
great  Body  stood  not  long  to  make  Resistance,  being  terri- 
fi'd  with  the  Volleys  of  Shots,  whose  Report  the  ecchoing 
Valleys  presented  to  their  Ears,  double  and  trebble :  And  that 
which  most  amaz'd  and  disanimated  them  in  the  rout,  were 
the  Dogs,  who  fiercely  pursu'd  and  seiz'd  the  flyres,  tearing 
away  great  morsels  of  Flesh.  After  the  Battel,  the  Con- 
queror proffer'd  Peace,  which  was  agreed  on,  upon  the 
delivery  of  several  great  Presents  of  Gold."  Oviedo 
says  that  the  price  of  peace  was  five  hundred  pounds  of 

Vasco  Nunez  sent  back  the  guides  who  had  come  from 
Quarequd  with  orders  for  his  stragglers  to  join  him  at  the 
village  of  Chiapes.  He  sent  out  three  scouting  parties, 

198  PANAMA 

under  Pizarro,  Alonso  de  Ben  Benito  and  Juan  de  Escary, 
to  discover  the  shortest  route  to  the  sea. 

After  two  days  struggling  with  the  jungle  Ben  Benito's 
party  reached  the  beach.  He  found  a  native  dug-out  tied 
upon  the  bank.  Jumping  into  it,  he  shouted  to  his  compan- 
ions, "I  call  you  all  to  witness  that  I  am  the  first  Spaniard 
to  sail  upon  these  waters."  There  was  not  one  of  the  com- 
pany who  did  not  realize  that  glory  was  near  at  hand. 

On  St.  Michael's  Day,  September  29th,  Balboa  with 
twenty-six  of  his  men  came  to  the  place  discovered  by  Ben 
Benito.  It  had  taken  them  twenty-three  days  to  cross  from 
ocean  to  ocean.  The  tide  was  out  when  they  arrived. 
Once  more  I  will  hand  the  narrative  over  to  Irving: 

"After  a  while,  the  water  came  rushing  in  with  great 
impetuosity,  and  soon  reached  nearly  to  the  place  where  the 
Spaniards  were  reposing.  Upon  this  Vasco  Nunez  rose  and 
took  a  banner  on  which  were  painted  the  Virgin  and  Child, 
and  under  them  the  arms  of  Castile  and  Leon;  then  drawing 
his  sword  and  throwing  his  buckler  on  his  shoulder,  he 
marched  into  the  sea  until  the  water  reached  above  his 
knees,  and  waving  his  banner,  exclaimed  with  a  loud  voice, 
'Long  live  the  high  and  mighty  monarchs,  Don  Ferdinand 
and  Donna  Juana,  sovereigns  of  Castile,  of  Leon,  and  of 
Arragon,  in  whose  name,  and  for  the  royal  crown  of  Castile, 
I  take  real,  and  corporal,  and  actual  possession  of  these  seas, 
and  lands,  and  coasts,  and  ports,  and  islands  of  the  south, 
and  all  thereunto  annexed;  and  of  the  kingdoms  and  prov- 
inces which  do  or  may  appertain  to  them,  in  whatever  man- 
ner, or  by  whatever  right  or  title,  ancient  or  modern,  in 
times  past,  present,  or  to  come,  without  any  contradiction; 
and  if  other  prince  or  captain,  Christian  or  infidel,  or  of  any 
law,  sect  or  condition  whatsoever,  shall  pretend  any  right 
to  these  lands  and  seas,  I  am  ready  and  prepared  to  main- 
tain and  defend  them,  in  the  name  of  the  Castilian  sover- 


eigns  present  and  future,  whose  is  the  empire  and  dominion 
over  these  Indian  islands,  and  Terra  Firma,  northern  and 
southern,  with  all  their  seas,  both  at  the  arctic  and  antarctic 
poles,  on  either  side  of  the  equinoctial  line,  whether  within 
or  without  the  tropics  of  Cancer  and  Capricorn,  both  now 
and  in  all  times,  as  long  as  the  world  endures,  and  unto  the 
final  day  of  judgment  of  all  mankind.' 

"This  swelling  declaration  and  defiance  being  uttered 
with  a  loud  voice,  and  no  one  appearing  to  dispute  his  pre- 
tensions, Vasco  Nunez  called  upon  his  companions  to  bear 
witness  of  the  fact  of  his  having  duly  taken  possession. 
They  all  declared  themselves  ready  to  defend  his  claim  to 
the  uttermost,  as  became  true  and  loyal  vassals  to  the  Cas- 
tilian  sovereigns;  and  the  notary  having  drawn  up  a  docu- 
ment for  the  occasion,  they  subscribed  it  with  their  names. 

"This  done,  they  advanced  to  the  margin  of  the  sea,  and 
stooping  down,  tasted  its  waters.  When  they  found  that, 
though  severed  by  intervening  mountains  and  continents, 
they  were  salt  like  the  seas  of  the  north,  they  felt  assured 
that  they  had  indeed  discovered  an  ocean,  and  again  re- 
turned thanks  to  God. 

"Having  concluded  all  these  ceremonies,  Vasco  Nunez 
drew  a  dagger  from  his  girdle,  and  cut  a  cross  on  a  tree  which 
grew  within  the  water,  and  made  two  other  crosses  on  two 
adjacent  trees,  in  honor  of  the  Three  Persons  of  the  Trinity, 
and  in  token  of  possession.  His  followers  likewise  cut 
crosses  on  many  of  the  tress  of  the  adjacent  forest,  and  lopped 
off  branches  with  their  swords  to  bear  away  as  trophies. 

"Such  was  the  singular  medley  of  chivalrous  and  religious 
ceremonial,  with  which  these  Spanish  adventurers  took  pos- 
session of  the  vast  Pacific  Ocean,  and  all  its  lands — a  scene 
strongly  characteristic  of  the  nation  and  the  age." 

The  Spaniards  then  returned  to  the  village  of  Chiapes, 
"richer,"  according  to  Bancroft,  "by  one  Pacific  Ocean,  ten 

200  PANAMA 

thousand  islands,  and  twenty-five  hundred  leagues  of  conti- 
nental seaboard." 

And  now,  having  accomplished  fame,  they  turned  their 
attention  to  more  sordid  things.  Chiapes  proved  to  be  a 
valuable  friend.  His  particular  enemy,  the  Cacique  Cocura, 
was  a  rich  man.  By  a  quick  raid  the  Spaniards  secured 
650  pesos  of  gold. 

Chiapes  was  unweary  in  well  doing  and  pointed  out 
another  enemy,  the  Cacique  Tumaco.  His  domain  lay  on 
the  other  side  of  the  Gulf.  On  the  17th  of  October,  with 
eighty  men,  Balboa  and  Chiapes  started  out  in  cayukas  to 
visit  him.  A  sudden  storm  nearly  ended  the  career  of  the 
great  discoverer.  They  were  wrecked  on  a  tidal  bar  and 
had  to  spend  the  night  waist  deep  in  water.  But  at  low-tide 
in  the  morning  they  were  able  to  patch  up  their  canoes  and 
get  ashore  near  Tumaco's  village.  Once  more  there  was  a 
fight  by  way  of  introduction.  It  so  impressed  Tumaco  with 
the  power  of  the  white  man  that  he  paid  Vasco  Nunez  614 
pesos  of  gold  and  a  basin  of  pearls,  240  of  which  were  of 
extraordinary  size. 

Balboa  was  the  only  one  of  the  Conquistadores  who  had 
the  knack  of  making  friends  with  the  conquered.  Of  an- 
other chief  who  had  just  suffered  a  severe  defeat,  Peter 
Martyr  wrote: 

"Vaschus  enterteyned  hym  very  frendely,  and  persuaded 
him  neuer  therafter  to  stande  in  feare.  Thus  they  ioyned 
handes,  embrased,  and  gaue  greate  gyftes  the  one  to  the 
other  to  knytte  up  the  knotte  of  continuall  amitie." 

He  had  crossed  the  Isthmus,  entering  each  new  village  at 
the  point  of  the  sword  and  always  making  so  friendly  an 
alliance  with  the  defeated  caciques  that  he  was  able  to  leave 
his  sick  and  wounded  in  their  care  as  he  pushed  on.  It 
was  a  truly  remarkable  performance. 

They  stayed  nearly  two  weeks  with  Tumaco.    He  took 







them  over  his  pearl  fisheries.  In  four  days  his  divers  brought 
up  ninety-six  ounces  of  pearls.  And  he  told  them  tales  of 
the  greater  riches  of  Peru  to  the  south.  Francisco  Pizarro 
was  one  of  the  men  who  sat  by  the  campfire  and  listened 
to  these  stories. 

On  the  29th  Tumaco  loaned  them  his  great  war-canoe — 
the  largest  native  boat  they  had  yet  seen.  Balboa  writes 
the  king  that  the  paddles  were  inlaid  with  pearls — probably 
mother-of-pearl.  And  in  this  immense  dug-out,  rowed  by 
the  Cacique's  slaves,  they  went  out  of  the  Gulf  into  the 
ocean.  For  Balboa  was  not  quite  content  with  the  cere- 
monies he  had  performed  on  the  Gulf.  To  make  doubly 
sure,  he  repeated  them  on  the  sea-coast.  Herrera  writes: 
"  Herein  he  used  all  the  formalities  that  could  be  imagined, 
for  he  was  brave,  subtle,  diligent  and  of  a  generous  temper, 
a  commander  fit  for  mighty  enterprises." 

Coming  back  from  these  ceremonies,  the  Indians  pointed 
out  the  group  of  islands  which  broke  the  southern  horizon. 
There  they  said  lived  a  cruel  chief  who  sometimes  descended 
on  the  mainland  and  harried  their  villages.  The  Spaniards 
were  probably  more  interested  to  hear  that  the  islands  were 
rich  in  pearls. 

Balboa  would  have  liked  to  visit  this  Cacique.  But  the 
dangers  of  navigation  in  native  boats  during  the  season  of 
storms  was  too  great.  He  gave  the  archipelago  the  name 
it  still  retains,  Islas  des  Perles.  He  promised  his  friend 
Chiapes  to  return  in  a  few  months  and  make  an  end  of  this 
terror  of  the  coast. 

On  November  3rd,  again  leaving  his  sick  and  wounded 
with  the  friendly  Indians,  he  started  back.  Chiapes  accom- 
panied him  part  of  the  way.  In  canoes  they  went  up  one 
of  the  large  rivers  which  enter  into  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel — 
either  the  Savanahs  or  the  Chucunaque. 

Up  this  river,  they  entered  the  territory  of  Teoca.     This 

202  PANAMA 

Cacique  was  easily  subdued  and  the  booty  of  the  Spaniards 
was  increased  by  one  hundred  and  sixty  ounces  of  gold  and 
two  hundred  large  pearls.  Once  more  Balboa  consum- 
mated his  victory  by  an  alliance  of  real  friendship.  This 
characteristic  of  Vasco  Nunez  cannot  be  emphasized  too 
strongly.  More  than  any  other  thing  it  differentiates  him 
from  the  other  Conquist adores.  The  old  chronicles  give 
touching  accounts  of  how  Chiapes,  when  the  time  came  for 
turning  back  to  his  own  people,  broke  into  tears  at  parting 
from  his  white  friend. 

After  leaving  the  river  the  Spaniards  met  the  hardest 
climbing  of  all  the  trail.  It  was  a  triumph  for  the  tactics 
of  their  leader  that  they  crossed  the  mountain  without  loss 
of  life.  They  could  not  have  done  so  without  the  friendship 
and  aid  of  their  Indian  allies. 

On  the  top  of  the  mountain  lived  and  ruled  a  desolate  old 
tyrant  named  Poncra.  If  half  of  what  the  chroniclers  say 
of  him  was  true,  he  had  considerably  more  crimes  to  his 
record  than  the  entire  Borgia  family.  So  generally  was  he 
hated  that  no  sooner  had  Balboa  conquered  him  than  all  his 
neighbors,  his  own  subjects  as  well  as  his  enemies,  clamored 
for  his  death 

"The  guides  which  Teaocha  had  provided  for  the  Span- 
iards," Ogilby  writes,  "desir'd  that  he  (Poncra)  might  be 
put  to  Death,  for  the  cruelties  which  he  had  long  committed, 
whose  Request  being  granted,  he  with  the  other  three  Princes, 
were  given  as  a  breakfast  to  the  Spanish  doggs." 

Bancroft  is  greatly  shocked  by  this  incident  and  says 
that  it  is  the  blackest  stain  on  the  record  of  Balboa.  It 
was  bad  indeed,  but  the  times  were  bad.  Vasco  Nunez 
never  committed  such  acts  with  the  wanton  cynicism  of 
his  successors.  So  great  was  the  impression  made  on  the 
natives  by  this  execution  that  within  a  week  three  caciques 
voluntarily  submitted  and  the  Spaniards  were  able  to  col- 

THE   SOU  THE  EN  SEA  203 

lect  a  tribute  of  sixteen  thousand  golden  pesos  without 
further  bloodshed.  Four  Indians  for  16,000  pesos!  In 
after  years  it  was  not  uncommon  for  the  Spaniards  to  kill 
sixteen  Indians  for  four  pesos.  So  far  was  Vasco  Nunez 
from  thinking  that  he  had  committed  a  heinous  crime  that 
he  named  the  place  "Todos  los  Santos"  (All  Saints). 

On  the  15th  of  December,  loaded  down  with  booty,  the 
explorers  reached  the  village  of  the  Pocorosa.  This  Cacique, 
who  was  later  to  make  his  name  dreaded  by  the  Spaniards, 
submitted  voluntarily.  For  about  a  month  Vasco  Nunez 
stayed  in  this  place  to  recoup  his  followers  and  to  allow  the 
stragglers  to  catch  up  with  him. 

Next  to  the  territory  of  Pocorosa  were  the  domains  of  the 
great  Cacique  Tubanam£.  Panciaco,  the  chief  who  had 
first  told  Balboa  of  the  Southern  Sea,  had  spoken  of  Tuba- 
namd  as  his  worst  enemy.  Vasco  Nunez  had  given  his  word 
to  reduce  him.  But  it  was  because  of  the  strength  and  prow- 
ess of  this  very  chief,  that  Panciaco  had  said  the  Spaniards 
would  need  one  thousand  men.  If  ever  a  man  would  have 
been  justified  in  repudiating  a  promise,  Balboa  would  have 
been  in  this  instance.  Tubanamd,  was  the  most  dreaded 
warrior  of  the  Isthmus.  The  jungle-worn  Spaniards  had 
already  met  and  overcome  difficulties  aplenty.  They  were 
now  near  home.  To  attack  meant  the  risk  of  all  their  hard- 
earned  booty.  For  a  defeat  would  have  discredited  them 
with  their  allies.  But  the  alternative  was  a  cowardly  de- 
tour. Vasco  Nunez  consulted  his  men.  Seventy  of  them 
volunteered!  Seventy  of  these  "owlde  souldiers  of  Dari- 
ena"  volunteered  to  achieve  the  work  of  a  thousand.  By  a 
forced  night  march  and  a  sudden  raid,  Vasco  Nunez  sur- 
prised and  captured  the  mighty  chieftain.  For  several  days 
Balboa  kept  him  in  suspense,  threatening  him  with  the  fate 
of  Poncra.  But  at  last  he  relented,  accepted  a  rich  ransom 
and  made  an  alliance. 

204  PANAMA 

This  brilliant  coup,  perhaps  the  most  daring  of  all  the 
expedition,  was  no  sooner  achieved  than  Vasco  Nunez 
came  down  with  the  fever.  "And,"  writes  Bancroft,  "no 
wonder  when  we  consider  the  strain  on  mind  and  body 
during  the  past  four  months.  First  in  every  action,  bearing 
exposure  and  privation  in  common  with  the  poorest  soldier, 
with  the  responsibility  of  the  adventure  resting  wholly  on 
him,  he  was  a  fit  subject  for  the  fever.  But  his  indomitable 
spirit  never  forsook  him,  and,  causing  himself  to  be  carried 
on  a  litter,  he  still  directed  their  movements  as  they  re- 
sumed the  march. 

"Weary,  ragged,  but  exultant,  the  party  at  length  reached 
the  village  of  Comagre." 

In  a  few  days  they  were  met  by  messengers  from  Santa 
Maria  with  the  news  that  two  ships  had  arrived  from  Santo 
Domingo  with  reinforcements  and  provisions.  Leaving  the 
greater  part  of  his  force  to  rest  and  follow  at  their  leisure, 
Vasco  Nunez  hurried  on.  He  reached  the  colony  on  Jan- 
uary 19th,  1514,  just  four  months  and  nineteen  days  after 
he  had  started  out. 

The  ships  from  Santo  Domingo  had  not  brought  the  Royal 
warrant  for  his  arrest.  The  King's  fifth,  together  with  an 
extra  present  of  two  hundred  of  the  largest  pearls,  were  set 
aside.  And  Balboa  composed  for  his  sovereign  a  glowing 
account  of  the  discovery. 

"And  in  all  his  long  letter,"  says  Peter  Martyr,  "there 
is  not  a  single  leaf  written,  which  does  not  contain  thanks 
to  Almighty  God  for  delivery  from  perils  and  preservation 
from  many  imminent  dangers." 

This  letter  bears  the  date  of  March  4th,  1514.  It  was 
sent  a  few  days  later  in  the  care  of  Pedro  de  Arbolancha. 
The  reason  for  this  long  delay  is  unknown.  For  Vasco 
Nunez  it  was  a  fatal  delay. 

Some  of  the  caciques  in  the  Darien  valley  had  revolted, 

THE   SOU T BEEN   SEA  205 

but  Hurtado  with  a  few  men,  and  the  news  that  Vasco 
Nunez  had  returned,  was  able  to  quiet  them. 

Andres  Garabitio  was  also  sent  out  with  a  few  men  to 
survey  the  shortest  route  between  the  two  oceans. 

These  two  items  speak  powerfully  of  the  character  of 
Vasco  Nunez.  At  this  period,  when  he  was  the  undisputed 
head  of  the  colony,  a  Spaniard  was  safe  anywhere  in  the 
districts  which  had  been  visited.  The  town  of  Santa  Maria 
was  thriving.  The  fields  planted  by  the  governor's  orders 
were  bearing  richly.  There  was  no  longer  danger  of  famine. 
Over  a  large  territory  peace  reigned  among  the  natives.  A 
peace  which  they  considered  cheaply  bought  with  the  gold 
the  Spaniards  desired. 

Whatever  were  the  faults  of  Vasco  Nunez,  no  Spanish 
king  ever  had  in  the  New  World  a  more  able  governor. 
One  cannot  but  regret  that  his  letter  to  the  king  had  not 
been  earlier  despatched.  If  it  had  arrived  in  Spain  a  few 
weeks  earlier,  he  would  probably  have  been  confirmed  in  his 
governorship.  The  entire  Isthmus  might  have  been  con- 
quered— perhaps  also  Peru — by  this  man  who  knew  how  to 
make  himself  beloved  by  the  Indians. 

Irving  ends  his  account  of  the  discovery  of  the  South  Sea 
with  these  paragraphs: 

"Thus  ended  one  of  the  most  remarkable  expeditions  of 
the  early  discoverers.  The  intrepidity  of  Vasco  Nunez  in 
penetrating,  with  a  handful  of  men,  far  into  the  interior  of 
a  wild  and  mountainous  country  peopled  by  warlike  tribes; 
his  skill  in  managing  his  band  of  rough  adventurers,  stimu- 
lating their  valor,  enforcing  their  obedience,  and  attaching 
their  affections,  show  him  to  have  possessed  great  qualities 
as  a  general.  We  are  told  that  he  was  always  foremost  in 
peril,  and  the  last  to  quit  the  field.  He  shared  the  toils  and 
dangers  of  the  meanest  of  his  followers,  treating  them  with 
frank  affability;  watching,  fighting,  fasting  and  laboring 

206  PANAMA 

with  them;  visiting  and  consoling  such  as  were  sick  or  in- 
firm, and  dividing  all  his  gains  with  fairness  and  liberality. 
He  was  chargeable  at  times  with  acts  of  bloodshed  and 
injustice,  but  it  is  probable  that  these  were  often  called  for 
as  measures  of  safety  and  precaution;  he  certainly  offended 
less  against  humanity  than  most  of  the  early  discoverers; 
and  the  unbounded  amity  and  confidence  reposed  in  him  by 
the  natives,  when  they  became  intimately  acquainted  with 
his  character,  speak  strongly  in  favor  of  his  kind  treatment 
of  them 

"The  character  of  Vasco  Nunez  had,  in  fact,  risen  with 
his  circumstances,  and  now  assumed  a  nobleness  and  gran- 
deur from  the  discovery  he  had  made,  and  the  important 
charge  it  had  devolved  upon  him.  He  no  longer  felt  him- 
self a  mere  soldier  of  fortune,  at  the  head  of  a  band  of 
adventurers,  but  a  great  commander  conducting  an  im- 
mortal enterprise.  'Behold,'  says  Peter  Martyr,  'Vasco 
Nunez  de  Balboa,  at  once  transformed  from  a  rash  royster 
to  a  politic  and  discreet  captain';  and  thus  it  is  that  men 
are  often  made  by  their  fortunes;  that  is  to  say,  their  latent 
qualities  are  brought  out,  and  shaped  and  strengthened  by 
events,  and  by  the  necessity  of  every  exertion  to  cope  with 
the  greatness  of  their  destiny." 



WHILE  Vasco  Nunez  was  accomplishing  fame  in  America, 
things  were  going  very  badly  for  him  at  the  Spanish  Court. 

The  Bachelor  Enciso  was  making  a  great  din  with  his 
accusations.  But  his  very  energy  in  reciting  his  misfor- 
tunes defeated  his  purpose.  While  convincing  the  Court 
that  Vasco  Nunez  was  an  unmitigated  scoundrel,  he  also 
created  the  general  impression  that  Castilla  del  Oro  was  a 
province  as  valueless  as  it  was  deadly.  After  the  tragic 
fates  of  Nicuesa  and  Ojeda,  no  one  petitioned  the  Throne 
for  the  post  of  governor. 

The  arrival  of  Colmenares  and  Caicedo,  the  delegates 
from  the  colony,  changed  all  this.  They  brought  an  im- 
pressive ''King's  Fifth"  of  wrought  gold  and  news  of  a 
Southern  Sea.  A  dozen  applicants  sprang  up,  eager  to  deal 
justice  to  Balboa  and  rule  the  rich  province  in  his  stead. 

The  Bishop  Fonseca,  who  had  befriended  Ojeda,  was  still 
supreme  in  the  Council  of  the  Indies.  He  secured  the  post 
for  his  friend,  Don  Pedro  Arias  de  Avila.  No  one  connected 
with  the  administration  of  Spanish  colonial  affairs  has  a 
blacker  record  than  this  Bishop  Fonseca,  and  no  appoint- 
ment of  his  was  ever  worse  than  Pedrarias,  "The  Scourge  of 
the  Indies." 

So  great  was  the  interest  excited  by  the  stories  of  Colme- 
nares and  Caicedo,  that  fifty  thousand  ducats,  an  immense 
sum  for  those  days,  was  spent  on  equipping  the  expedition. 

A  large  army  had  been  recruited  for  the  Italian  wars, 

208  PANAMA 

and,  just  at  the  time  when  Pedrarias  was  appointed  gov- 
ernor and  captain-general  of  Castilla  del  Oro,  peace  was 
established.  The  soldiers,  mustered  out,  flocked  to  his 
standard.  There  were  many  of  the  nobility  among  these 
volunteers — men  who  had  heavily  mortgaged  their  estates 
to  equip  their  vassals  for  the  war,  and  now  that  the  hope 
of  Italian  booty  was  withdrawn,  turned  to  the  New  World. 

Pedrarias  collected  a  fleet  of  nineteen  ships.  They  were 
authorized  to  carry  twelve  hundred  men,  but  so  great  was 
the  pressure  of  applicants  that  three  hundred  more  were 
crowded  on  board.  Two  thousand  volunteers  were  turned 
away.  Among  this  company — mostly  gay  but  bankrupt 
cavaliers — were  two  hardy  men  who  were  to  win  fame — 
Hernando  de  Soto,  the  discoverer  of  the  Mississippi,  and 
Diego  de  Almagro,  who  became  partner  with  Pizarro  in  the 
conquest  of  Peru.  The  Bachelor  Enciso  also  joined  the 

By  royal  decree  Santa  Maria  de  la  Antigua  del  Darien 
was  given  a  city  charter  and  elevated  to  metropolitan  rank. 
A  Franciscan  friar,  Juan  de  Quevedo,  was  appointed  Bishop 
of  this  first  episcopal  see  on  the  continent.  Gaspar  de 
Espinosa  was  sent  out  as  Alcalde  Mayor,  with  especial 
instructions  to  bring  Vasco  Nunez  to  book. 

The  armada  sailed  in  the  beginning  of  1514,  but  shortly 
ran  into  a  storm  which  foundered  two  of  the  ships  and  forced 
it  to  put  back  to  Spain  to  refit.  It  was  not  until  the  llth 
of  April  that  they  got  up  anchor  again 

Only  a  few  days  later,  Pedro  Arbolancha,  who  had  left 
Santa  Maria  early  in  March,  arrived  with  the  letter  from 
Vasco  Nunez  with  its  description  of  finding  the  Southern 
Sea.  This  news  created  as  much  excitement  as  the  return 
of  Columbus,  twenty-two  years  before,  from  his  first  voy- 
age. But  it  came  too  late. 

"The  tidings  of  this  discovery,"  Irving  writes,  "made  all 


Spain  resound  with  the  praises  of  Vasco  Nunez;  and  from 
being  considered  a  lawless  and  desperate  adventurer,  he  was 
lauded  to  the  skies  as  a  worthy  successor  to  Columbus. 
The  king  repented  of  the  harshness  of  his  late  measures 
toward  him,  and  ordered  the  Bishop  Fonseca  to  devise 
some  mode  of  rewarding  his  transcendent  services." 

But  Pedrarias  had  sailed — and  there  was  no  wireless  to 
call  him  back. 

Before  they  reached  their  destination  the  new  governor 
had  already  committed  himself  to  the  course  he  was  to 
follow  until  his  death.  He  stopped  his  fleet  at  some  of  the 
Caribbean  Islands  to  make  slave  raids  and  he  hung  a  sailor 
at  the  yardarm  for  not  properly  saluting  an  officer. 

Irving  gives  the  following  account  of  the  arrival  of  Pedra- 
rias in  his  new  domains : 

"The  town  (Sta.  Maria  de  la  Antigua)  was  situated  on 
the  banks  of  a  river,  and  contained  upward  of  two  hundred 
houses  and  cabins.  Its  population  amounted  to  five  hun- 
dred and  fifteen  Europeans,  all  men,  and  fifteen  hundred 
Indians,  male  and  female.  Orchards  and  gardens  had  been 
laid  out,  where  European  as  well  as  native  fruits  and  vege- 
tables were  cultivated,  and  already  gave  promise  of  future 
abundance.  Vasco  Nunez  devised  all  kinds  of  means  to 
keep  up  the  spirits  of  the  people.  On  holidays  they  had  their 
favorite  national  sports  and  games,  and  particularly  tilting 
matches,  of  which  chivalrous  amusement  the  Spaniards  in 
those  days  were  extravagantly  fond.  Sometimes  he  grati- 
fied their  restless  and  roving  habits  by  sending  them  on 
expeditions  to  various  parts  of  the  country,  to  acquire  a 
knowledge  of  its  resources,  and  to  strengthen  his  sway  over 
the  natives.  He  was  so  successful  in  securing  the  amity,  or 
exciting  the  awe  of  the  Indian  tribes,  that  a  Spaniard  might 
go  singly  about  the  land  in  perfect  safety;  while  his  followers 
were  zealous  in  their  devotion  to  him,  both  from  admiration 

210  PANAMA 

of  his  past  exploits  and  from  hopes  of  soon  being  led  by 
him  to  new  discoveries  and  conquests.  .  .  . 

"Such  were  the  hearty  and  well-seasoned  veterans  that 
were  under  the  sway  of  Vasco  Nunez;  and  the  colony  gave 
signs  of  rising  in  prosperity  under  his  active  and  fostering 
management,  when,  in  the  month  of  June,  the  fleet  of  Don 
Pedrarias  Davila  arrived  in  the  Gulf  of  Uraba. 

"The  Spanish  cavaliers  who  accompanied  the  new  gov- 
ernor were  eager  to  get  on  shore,  and  to  behold  the  antici- 
pated wonders  of  the  land;  but  Pedrarias,  knowing  the 
resolute  character  of  Vasco  Nunez,  and  the  devotion  of  his 
followers,  apprehended  some  difficulty  in  getting  possession 
of  the  colony.  Anchoring,  therefore,  about  a  league  and  a 
half  from  the  settlement,  he  sent  a  messenger  on  shore  to 
announce  his  arrival.  The  envoy,  having  heard  so  much  in 
Spain  of  the  prowess  and  exploits  of  Vasco  Nunez,  and  the 
riches  of  Golden  Castile,  expected,  no  doubt,  to  find  a 
blustering  warrior,  maintaining  barbaric  state  in  the  gov- 
ernment which  he  had  usurped.  Great  was  his  astonish- 
ment, therefore,  to  find  this  redoubtable  hero  a  plain,  unas- 
suming man,  clad  in  a  cotton  frock  and  drawers,  and  hempen 
sandals,  directing  and  aiding  the  labor  of  several  Indians 
who  were  thatching  a  cottage  in  which  he  resided. 

"The  messenger  approached  him  respectfully,  and  an- 
nounced the  arrival  of  Don  Pedrarias  Davila  as  governor 
of  the  country. 

"Whatever  Vasco  Nunez  may  have  felt  at  this  intelli- 
gence, he  suppressed  his  emotions,  and  answered  the  mes- 
senger with  great  discretion:  'Tell  Don  Pedrarias  Davila/ 
said  he,  'that  he  is  welcome,  and  I  congratulate  him  on  his 
safe  arrival,  and  am  ready,  with  all  who  are  here,  to  obey 
his  orders.' 

"The  little  community  of  rough  and  daring  adventurers 
was  in  an  uproar  when  they  found  a  new  governor  had 


arrived.  Some  of  the  most  zealous  adherents  of  Vasco 
Nunez  were  disposed  to  sally  forth,  sword  in  hand,  and  repel 
the  intruder;  but  they  were  restrained  by  their  more  con- 
siderate chieftain,  who  prepared  to  receive  the  new  governor 
with  all  due  submission. 

"Pedrarias  disembarked  on  the  thirtieth  of  June,  accom- 
panied by  his  heroic  wife,  Donna  Isabella,  who,  according 
to  Old  Peter  Martyr,  had  sustained  the  roarings  and  rages 
of  the  ocean  with  no  less  stout  courage  than  either  her  hus- 
band or  the  mariners  who  had  been  brought  up  among  the 
surges  of  the  sea. 

"Pedrarias  set  out  for  the  embryo  city  at  the  head  of 
two  thousand  men,  all  well  armed.  He  led  his  wife  by  the 
hand,  and  on  the  other  side  of  him  was  the  Bishop  of  Darien 
in  his  robes;  while  a  brilliant  train  of  youthful  cavaliers,  in 
glittering  armor  and  brocade,  formed  a  kind  of  body-guard. 

"All  this  pomp  and  splendor  formed  a  striking  contrast 
with  the  humble  state  of  Vasco  Nunez,  who  came  forth 
unarmed,  in  simple  attire,  accompanied  by  his  counsellors 
and  a  handful  of  the  'old  soldiers  of  Darien/  scarred  and 
battered,  and  grown  half  wild  in  Indian  warfare,  but  without 
weapons,  and  in  garments  much  the  worse  for  wear. 

"Vasco  Nunez  saluted  Don  Pedrarias  Davila,  with  pro- 
found reverence,  and  promised  him  implicit  obedience,  both 
in  his  own  name  and  in  the  name  of  the  community.  Hav- 
ing entered  the  town,  he  conducted  his  distinguished  guests 
to  his  straw-thatched  habitation,  where  he  had  caused  a 
repast  to  be  prepared  of  such  cheer  as  his  means  afforded, 
consisting  of  roots  and  fruits,  maize  and  cassava  bread,  with 
no  other  beverage  than  water  from  the  river; — a  sorry  palace 
and  a  meagre  banquet  in  the  eyes  of  the  gay  cavaliers,  who 
had  anticipated  far  other  things  from  the  usurper  of  Golden 
Castile.  Vasco  Nunez,  however,  acquitted  himself  in  his 
humble  wigwam  with  the  courtesy  and  hospitality  of  a 

212  PANAMA 

prince,  and  showed  that  the  dignity  of  an  entertainment 
depends  more  upon  the  giver  than  the  feast.  In  the  mean- 
time a  plentiful  supply  of  European  provisions  was  landed 
from  the  fleet,  and  a  temporary  abundance  was  diffused 
through  the  colony." 

But  this  love  feast  was  of  short  duration.  As  soon  as 
Pedrarias  had  won  all  the  information  he  could  from  Vasco 
Nunez  by  fair  means,  he  published  his  orders,  which  stripped 
the  discoverer  of  all  his  honors,  and  ordered  his  trial. 

Espinosa,  the  judge,  had  fallen  entirely  under  the  influ- 
ence of  the  Bishop  Quevedo.  And  Vasco  Nunez,  who  was 
a  shrewd  judge  of  men,  had  taken  the  churchman's  measure 
at  a  glance.  He  had  taken  so  quick  and  keen  an  interest 
in  the  prelate's  temporal  affairs  that  the  good  bishop  felt 
that  the  welfare  of  the  diocese  was  wrapt  up  in  the  pros- 
perity of  Balboa.  To  the  great  disgust  of  the  governor, 
Vasco  Nunez  was  triumphantly  acquitted  of  all  criminal 

Pedrarias  was  in  a  perplexing  dilemma.  To  allow  so 
popular  a  leader  freedom  of  action  in  the  colony  was  to 
invite  the  fate  of  Enciso  and  Nicuesa.  To  send  him  home 
to  Spain  would  be  to  send  him  to  a  triumph  from  which  he 
would  doubtless  return  with  a  superseding  commission. 
The  Bachelor  Enciso  came  to  his  rescue  with  a  string  of 
civil  suits;  by  carefully  nursing  them — the  "law's  delays" 
were  as  infamous  then  as  now — the  governor  could  keep  his 
rival  hopelessly  involved  in  litigation. 

Undoubtedly  the  Bachelor  enjoyed  the  situation.  And 
undoubtedly  Vasco  Nunez — in  the  long  days  which  followed, 
days  and  weeks  and  months  of  inaction,  when  he  had  to  sit 
quiet  and  watch  the  fabric  of  his  accomplishments  torn  to 
shreds,  his  plans  wrecked,  his  friends  despoiled,  his  treaties 
violated — repented  grievously  of  his  former  mistreatment  of 


There  were  other  men  who  enjoyed  his  eclipse.  Every 
one  who  had  a  private  grudge  against  him,  hastened  to  make 
friends  with  Pedrarias.  Not  the  least  of  these  was  Fran- 
sico  Pizarro.  Vasco  Nunez  had  once  rebuked  him  for  cow- 
ardice in  leaving  a  wounded  comrade  on  the  field  of  battle. 
Pizarro  became  a  trusted  lieutenant  of  the  new  governor. 

But  although  the  great  work  of  Balboa  could  be  wrecked 
by  mean-spirited,  less  able  men,  it  could  not  be  done  with- 
out cost.  Vasco  Nunez  had  made  the  colony  self-supporting. 
The  "owlde  souldiers  of  Dariena,"  who  could  merrily  make 
their  boast  that  they  had  observed  a  longer  and  sharper 
lenten  fast  than  the  Pope  enjoined,  "since  for  the  space  of 
four  years,  their  food  had  been  herbs  and  fruits,  with  now 
and  then  fish  and  very  seldom  flesh, "  could  live  comfortably 
on  the  produce  of  their  farms.  The  sudden  influx  of  fifteen 
hundred  raw  recruits  from  Spain  was  a  strain  the  little 
colony  could  have  borne  only  with  great  foresight  and  self- 
restraint.  These  qualities  the  enemies  of  Balboa  lacked. 
Irving  explains  the  disaster  which  followed  in  these  para- 
graphs : 

"It  is  not  a  matter  of  surprise  that  a  situation  of  this 
kind,  in  a  tropical  climate,  should  be  fatal  to  the  health  of 
Europeans.  Many  who  had  recently  arrived  were  swept  off 
speedily;  Pedrarias  himself  fell  sick,  and  was  removed,  with 
most  of  his  people,  to  a  healthier  spot  on  the  river  Corobari ; 
the  malady,  however,  continued  to  increase.  The  provisions 
brought  out  in  the  ships  had  been  partly  damaged  by  the  sea 
and  the  residue  grew  scanty,  and  the  people  were  put  upon 
short  allowance;  the  debility  thus  produced  increased  the 
ravages  of  disease;  at  length  the  provisions  were  exhausted, 
and  the  horrors  of  absolute  famine  ensued. 

"Every  one  was  more  or  less  affected  by  these  calamities; 
even  the  veterans  of  the  colony  quailed  beneath  them;  but 
to  none  were  they  more  fatal  than  to  the  crowd  of  youthful 

214  PANAMA 

cavaliers  who  had  once  glittered  so  gayly  about  the  streets 
of  Seville,  and  had  come  out  to  the  New  World  elated  with 
the  most  sanguine  expectations.  From  the  very  moment 
of  their  landing,  they  had  been  disheartened  at  the  savage 
scenes  around  them,  and  disgusted  with  the  squalid  life 
they  were  doomed  to  lead.  They  shrunk  with  disdain  from 
the  labors  with  which  alone  wealth  was  to  be  procured  in 
this  land  of  gold  and  pearls,  and  were  impatient  of  the  hum- 
ble exertions  necessary  for  the  maintenance  of  existence. 
As  the  famine  increased,  their  case  became  desperate;  for 
they  were  unable  to  help  themselves,  and  their  rank  and  dig- 
nity commanded  neither  deference  nor  aid  at  a  time  when 
common  misery  made  every  one  selfish.  Many  of  them, 
who  had  mortgaged  estates  in  Spain  to  fit  themselves  out 
sumptuously  for  their  Italian  campaign,  now  perished  for 
lack  of  food.  Some  would  be  seen  bartering  a  robe  of  crim- 
son silk,  or  some  garment  of  rich  brocade,  for  a  pound  of 
Indian  bread  or  European  biscuit;  others  sought  to  satisfy 
the  cravings  of  hunger  with  the  herbs  and  roots  of  the  field, 
and  one  of  the  principal  cavaliers  absolutely  expired  of  hun- 
ger in  the  public  streets. 

"In  this  wretched  way,  and  in  the  short  space  of  one 
month,  perished  seven  hundred  of  the  little  army  of  youth- 
ful and  buoyant  spirits  who  had  embarked  with  Pedrarias. 
The  bodies  of  some  remained  for  a  day  or  two  without 
sepulchre,  their  friends  not  having  sufficient  strength  to 
bury  them.  Unable  to  remedy  the  evil,  Pedrarias  gave 
permission  to  his  men  to  flee  from  it.  A  ship-load  of  starv- 
ing adventurers  departed  for  Cuba,  where  some  of  them 
joined  the  standard  of  Diego  Velasquez,  who  was  colonizing 
that  island;  others  made  their  way  back  to  Spain,  where 
they  arrived  broken  in  health,  in  spirits,  and  in  fortune." 

While  this  blight  was  depopulating  the  once  prosperous 
town  of  Santa  Maria,  affairs  were  going  a  thousand  times 


worse  in  the  young  empire  which  Vasco  Nunez,  now  a  help- 
less prisoner,  had  built  up  with  so  much  labor  and  skill. 

The  king  had  ordered  that  a  road  should  be  built  across 
the  Isthmus,  garrisons  established  at  important  places  and 
a  town  created  on  the  new  ocean. 

An  expedition  of  four  hundred  men  under  Juan  de  Ayora 
was  sent  out  on  this  mission.  He  began  by  sacking  the 
villages  of  the  friendly  Indians.  The  historian  Oviedo,  who 
had  come  out  in  the  retinue  of  Pedrarias,  writes: 

"The  caciques  were  tortured  to  make  them  disclose  their 
gold.  Some  they  roasted,  others  they  threw  to  the  dogs, 
others  were  hanged.  .  .  .  This  infernal  hunt  lasted 
several  months." 

Hurtado,  a  former  friend  of  Balboa's,  was  sent  out  to 
support  Ayora.  Anxious  to  win  the  favor  of  Pedrarias, 
he  tried  to  excel  in  brutality.  Returning  from  his  raid  he 
stopped  at  the  village  of  Careta  and  asked  for  men  to  carry 
in  his  spoil.  When  he  arrived  at  Santa  Maria,  he  made 
slaves  of  them,  giving  six  to  the  governor,  six  to  the  bishop, 
four  to  the  judge  Espinosa,  and  selling  the  rest  for  his  pri- 
vate profit.  In  this  manner  the  Spaniards  under  Pedrarias 
violated  the  alliances  of  Balboa  and  sowed  the  whirlwind. 

Ayora,  having  built  and  garrisoned  a  fort,  called  Santa 
Crux,  up  the  coast  in  the  territory  of  the  Cacique  Pocorosa, 
started  across  the  Isthmus  on  an  orgy  of  rapine.  Every- 
where the  natives  met  him  hospitably  as  a  friend  of  Vasco 
Nunez  and  everywhere  they  were  massacred.  He  founded 
a  second  garrison  in  the  domain  of  Tubanamd,  and,  without 
having  reached  the  ocean,  returned  to  Santa  Maria,  loaded 
down  with  slaves  and  booty.  But  he  was  not  content  with 
robbing  the  natives;  he  was  not  willing  to  divide  his  spoils 
with  the  colony  or  with  the  king.  His  men  seized  a  ship 
in  the  harbor  and  made  off  with  their  loot.  Ayora  had 
powerful  friends  in  Spain  and  was  never  punished. 

216  PANAMA 

Peter  Martyr  writes  of  him:  "In  all  the  turmoyls  and 
tragicall  affayres  of  the  Ocean,  nothing  has  no  muche  dis- 
pleased me,  as  the  couetousnesse  of  this  man,  who  hath  so 
disturbed  the  pacified  mindes  of  the  kinges." 

"If  Juan  de  Ayora  had  been  punished  for  his  many 
injuries  to  the  peaceable  caciques,"  Balboa  wrote  to  the 
king,  "the  other  captains  would  not  have  dared  to  commit 
like  excesses." 

But  Pedrarias,  instead  of  trying  to  punish  Ayora,  is  said 
to  have  profited  not  only  from  his  cruelties,  but  also  from 
his  embezzlement  of  the  King's  fifth. 

All  the  raids  were  not  so  successful.  Francisco  Becerra, 
after  bringing  in  7,000  pesos  of  gold  and  one  hundred  slaves, 
was  sent  with  180  men  to  reduce  the  Cenu  tribes  on  the 
other  side  of  the  Gulf.  Many  Spaniards  had  died  from  their 
poisoned  arrows  and  Becerra  vowed  that  he  would  extermi- 
nate them.  But  he  fell  stupidly  into  an  ambush  and  only 
a  native  slave  boy  escaped  to  bring  the  news  to  Santa  Maria. 

The  garrison  which  Ayora  had  established  at  Santa  Cruz 
by  their  deviltry  drove  the  Indians  of  their  neighborhood 
into  a  revolt  of  desperation.  The  Cacique  Pocorosa  led  the 
attack.  Only  five  of  the  Spaniards  escaped  by  boat.  The 
Indians  melted  gold  and  poured  it  down  the  throats  of  their 

"Eat  gold,  you  Christians,"  they  cried.  "Eat  it.  Have 
your  fill  of  gold." 

In  March,  1515,  Gonzalo  de  Badajoz  started  out  with 
130  men.  They  went  up  the  coast  as  far  as  Nombre  de 
Dios;  they  could  find  no  marks  of  Nicuesa's  colony,  so  thor- 
oughly had  the  jungle  swallowed  up  the  ruins.  He  sent 
back  booty,  estimated  by  Bancroft  at  $500,000  of  our  cur- 
rency. He  adds:  "In  addition  to  gold  there  were  always 
women  for  baptism,  lust,  and  slavery,  and  so  the  Christians 
were  happy." 


Badajoz  then  crossed  the  Isthmus  and  by  treachery  and 
murder  collected  100,000  castellanos  more.  But  again  the 
Indians,  driven  to  desperation — this  time  in  the  territory 
of  the  Cacique  Parita,  to  the  west  of  Panama — combined 
against  the  invaders.  In  a  series  of  severe  fights  seventy  of 
the  Spaniards  were  killed.  The  remainder,  forced  to  aban- 
don their  booty,  escaped  to  the  island  of  Toboga.  After 
some  weeks  of  rest  in  this  place  they  returned  to  the  main- 
land and  fought  their  way  back  to  Santa  Maria. 

In  June,  Vasco  Nunez  temporarily  escaped  from  the  law- 
yers and  accompanied  an  expedition  of  two  hundred  men 
up  the  Darien  River  in  search  of  the  mythical  Golden  Tem- 
ple of  Dabaiba.  The  Indians  attacked  them  in  canoes  and 
diving  overboard  upset  the  boats  of  the  Spaniards.  Half 
of  them  were  drowned  in  the  swift  current.  Balboa  brought 
back  the  remnant  and  was  again  entangled  by  litiga- 

What  Vasco  Nunez  thought  of  lawyers  is  vigorously  ex- 
pressed in  one  of  his  letters  to  the  king. 

"Most  powerful  sire,  there  is  one  great  favor  that  I  pray 
your  royal  highness  to  do  me,  since  it  is  of  greatest  import- 
ance to  your  service.  It  is  for  your  royal  highness  to  issue 
an  order  that  no  bachiller  of  laws  or  anything  unless  it  be  of 
medicine,  shall  come  to  these  parts  of  Tierra  Firme  .  .  . 
because  no  bachiller  ever  comes  hither  who  is  not  a  devil, 
and  they  all  live  like  devils,  and  not  only  are  they  them- 
selves bad,  but  they  make  others  bad." 

In  November,  1515,  Antonio  Tello  de  Gutzman  was  sent 
out  to  complete  the  work  of  Ayora.  He  found  the  garrison 
of  Tubanamd  closely  besieged  and  almost  overcome  by 
famine.  This  expedition  pushed  westward  into  new  terri- 
tory. Crossing  the  Rio  Chepo,  they  came  to  the  place 
which  the  Indians  called  Panamd — "Abounding  in  fish." 
Albrites  led  a  detachment  through  territory  which  is  now 

218  PANAMA 

the  Canal  Zone  to  the  Chagres  River.  He  boasted  that  he 
had  gathered  1,200  golden  pesos  without  bloodshed.  Return- 
ing to  the  Caribbean  Sea,  the  expedition  had  to  fight  for 
every  step.  Pocorosa,  the  chief  who  had  overthrown  the 
garrison  of  Santa  Crux,  was  on  the  warpath.  He  used  as 
his  banner  a  Spanish  shirt,  soaked  in  Spanish  blood.  The 
days  when  the  natives  had  thought  Balboa  was  invincible 
had  passed.  As  they  discovered  the  villainy  of  the  white 
men  they  had  discovered  their  vulnerability.  Gutzman 
lost  many  men  on  the  route,  but  managed  to  keep  a  tight 
hold  on  his  booty  and  slaves. 

Although  the  Bishop  Fonseca  had  been  able  all  this  time 
to  block  any  official  preferment  for  Balboa,  news  of  the 
enthusiasm  with  which  he  was  regarded  in  Spain  began  to 
reach  Darien.  And  Pedrarias,  fearing  that  his  rival  might 
be  made  governor  of  the  Southern  Seas,  decided  to  stake 
out  the  claim  ahead  of  him.  He  dispatched  his  cousin, 
Gaspar  de  Morales,  and  Pizarro  to  take  possession  in  his 
name.  They  found  the  Caciques  Chiapes  and  Tumaco  as 
yet  undespoiled  and  friendly.  Leaving  a  garrison  on  the 
mainland  under  Penalosa,  they  embarked  in  canoes  furn- 
ished by  the  friendly  natives  for  the  Pearl  Islands.  After  a 
fierce  fight  they  subdued  the  cacique,  and,  following  Bal- 
boa's policy,  made  friends  with  him.  From  him  Pizarro 
heard  new  and  more  precise  stories  of  the  great  empire  of 
the  Incas.  They  extracted  a  heavy  tribute  from  their  host 
as  a  price  of  peace.  It  contained  a  pearl  which  Vasco 
Nunes  described  in  a  letter  to  the  king  as  "very  perfect, 
without  a  scratch  or  stain,  and  of  a  very  pretty  color,  and 
lustre  and  make;  which  in  truth  is  a  jewel  well  worthy  of 
presentation  to  your  Majesty,  more  particularly  as  coming 
from  these  parts."  It  weighed  31  carats  and  Vasco  Nunez, 
after  this  broad  hint  as  to  what  would  have  happened  to  it 
if  he  had  been  in  power,  adds,  "It  was  put  up  at  auction 


and  sold  for  1,200  pesos  del  oro  to  a  merchant  and  finally 
fell  into  the  hands  of  the  Governor." 

Returning  to  the  mainland,  Morales  and  Pizarro  found 
the  Indians  in  war-paint.  Penalosa  and  his  men  had  been 
spending  their  time  outraging  the  native  women.  The  two 
generals  summoned  a  council  of  their  allies.  Eighteen 
caciques,  remembering  the  justice  of  Vasco  Nunez  and 
expecting  to  have  their  wrongs  righted,  came  in.  Morales 
and  Pizarro  threw  them  to  the  dogs.  They  then  spread 
fire  and  sword  through  the  countryside.  The  last  of  the 
twenty-five  tribes  which  Balboa  had  bound  to  him  by 
friendly  alliances  were  turned  into  bitter  enemies.  In  one 
village  the  Spaniards  slaughtered  seven  hundred,  mostly 
women  and  children,  within  an  hour.  But  once  more  the 
white  men  were  to  learn  that  the  Indians  when  driven  to 
desperation  become  formidable.  The  Cacique  of  Biru,  whose 
territory  lay  to  the  east  of  the  Gulf,  administered  a  stinging 
defeat.  Morales  and  Pizarro  were  forced  into  a  retreat, 
which  soon  became  a  rout.  They  even  had  to  murder  most 
of  the  captives  they  had  taken  for  slaves.  At  last,  the  wreck 
of  their  expedition,  clinging  to  their  pearls,  straggled  into 
Santa  Maria. 

"Be  it  known  to  your  Majesty,"  Balboa  wrote,  "that  dur- 
ing this  excursion  was  perpetrated  the  greatest  cruelty  ever 
heard  of  in  Arabian  or  Christian  country,  in  any  genera- 
tion. And  this  it  is.  This  captain  and  the  surviving 
Christians  while  on  this  journey  took  nearly  one  hundred 
Indians  of  both  sexes,  mostly  women  and  children,  fastened 
with  chains  and  afterwards  ordered  them  to  be  decapitated 
and  scalped." 

"Being  cousin  and  servant  of  the  Governor,"  Oviedo  re- 
marks, Morales  suffered  "neither  punishment  nor  pain." 

Towards  the  end  of  1515,  Pedrarias  personally  led  an 
expedition  against  the  Cenu.  A  few  women  and  children 

220  PANAMA 

were  massacred  and  then  the  soldiers,  afraid  of  the  poisoned 
arrows,  insisted  on  abandoning  the  campaign.  Pedrarias 
returned  to  the  Isthmus  and  started  a  town  at  Acla,  near  the 
present  Caledonia  Bay.  He  then  fell  sick  of  a  fever  and  re- 
turned to  Santa  Maria,  leaving  Espinosa,  the  Alcalde  Mayor, 
in  charge  of  the  new  town. 

The  judge,  having  found  that  litigation  was  not  as  profit- 
able as  he  had  hoped,  decided  to  lay  aside  his  law  books  and 
take  up  the  sword.  He  recounts  his  exploits  in  one  of  the 
most  curious  documents  which  have  come  down  to  us  from 
those  times. 

"Relacion  hecha  por  Caspar  de  Espinosa,  alcalde  mayor 
de  Castilla  del  Oro,  dada  a  Pedrarias  de  Avila,  lugar  terri- 
ente  general  de  aquellos  provincias,  de  todo  loque  le  se  cedo 
en  la  entrada  que  hizo  en  ellos,  de  orden  de  Pedrdrias." 

In  verbose  legal  phraseology  he  tells  of  his  adventures; 
he  gives  great  space  to  the  proceedings  of  his  drum-head 
court  martial.  He  did  everything  with  due  deference  to 
the  law.  He  never  threw  any  Indian  to  the  dogs  without 
having  first  enacted  a  statute  which  justified  the  execution. 
With  astounding  naivete"  he  tells  of  his  own  villainy,  boasts 
of  treachery  and  plumes  himself  over  the  refinements  of  tor- 
ture which  he  devised.  With  unconscious  humor  he  notes 
down  the  important  part  played  in  the  expedition  by  his 

Espinosa  was  the  first  man  to  ride  across  the  Isthmus. 
His  home-sick  jackass  impressed  the  natives  immensely. 
When  he  brayed  they  fell  on  their  faces  in  awe.  Espinosa — 
who  had  as  keen  an  eye  for  business  as  any  pirate  who  ever 
visited  those  parts — told  the  Indians  that  this  four-foot 
demon  was  asking  for  gold.  The  frightened  people  gave 
up  their  last  ornaments — dug  up  the  graves  of  their  ances- 
tors— to  appease  him. 

Espinosa,  also,  boasts  of  having  built  the  first  Christian 

Copyright  by   Underwood  &   Undenuood. 

Native  Girls  Pounding  Rice. 


church  on  the  Pacific,  near  Chame*  Point.  In  the  midst  of 
their  worst  deviltry  they  paused  now  and  then  to  worship 

From  this  place  Barthome"  Hurtado,  with  a  hundred  men, 
coasted  westward  in  native  canoes  as  far  as  the  Gulf  of 
Nicaya,  within  the  present  borders  of  Costa  Rica.  As  his 
force  was  small  and  he  was  far  from  assistance,  he  treated 
the  natives  with  respect  and  was  everywhere  hospitably 

On  his  return,  early  in  1517,  he  found  Espinosa  building 
a  fort  at  Panama.  The  historian  Herrera  estimates  that  the 
spoil  collected  on  this  trip — in  which  of  course  is  included 
the  tribute  the  Indians  paid  to  quiet  the  braying  of  the 
jackass — amounted  to  80,000  pesos  del  oro  and  2,000  slaves. 

"During  Espinosa's  absence  in  the  south,"  Bancroft 
writes,  "affairs  at  Antigua  were  exceptionally  dull.  The 
illness  of  the  governor,  unfortunately,  was  not  fatal." 

Every  boat  sailing  for  Spain  carried  a  letter  from  Vasco 
Nunez  to  the  king,  telling  of  all  the  governor's  misdeeds — 
it  was  a  long  list — and  how  surely  the  colony  was  going  to 
the  dogs.  As  long  as  possible  the  Bishop  of  Fonseca  pre- 
vented the  king  from  rewarding  Balboa,  and  when  at  last 
he  could  delay  action  no  longer,  he  still  managed  to  protect 
his  creature,  Pedrarias. 

Early  in  1515  royal  despatches  arrived  in  Santa  Maria 
which  created  Vasco  Nunez  "Captain  General  of  the  Prov- 
inces of  Coiba  (Careta)  and  Panama",  and  Adelantado  of 
the  Southern  Sea" — an  empty  honor,  as  the  Governor  of 
Castilla  del  Oro  would  still  be  his  superior.  These  honors 
only  made  Pedrarias  more  venomous.  He  had  the  audacity 
to  suppress  them.  How  long  he  held  up  the  royal  order  it 
is  now  impossible  to  determine.  But  at  last  the  Bishop  of 
Darien,  Quevedo,  heard  of  them  and  forced  their  publica- 

222  PANAMA 

Angrier  than  ever,  Pedrarias  found  one  excuse  after  an- 
other to  keep  Vasco  Nunez  inactive.  He  would  not  even 
give  the  new  Captain-general  permission  to  visit  his  prov- 
inces. The  Bishop  Quevedo  came  once  more  to  the  rescue. 
He  impressed  on  the  old  man  the  impossibility  of  forever 
preserving  this  deadlock.  Vasco  Nunez  was  too  popular  to 
be  forever  kept  in  the  shade.  Sooner  or  later  the  king  would 
interfere  and  it  could  only  be  to  the  governor's  disadvantage, 
very  probably  to  his  disgrace.  How  much  better  to  have 
this  powerful  and  active  man  for  a  friend!  Why  not  make 
a  son-in-law  of  him?  Pedrarias  had  several  daughters. 
After  much  urging  from  the  bishop,  the  old  governor,  with 
very  ill  grace  we  may  be  sure,  assented  to  this  alliance. 
What  Balboa  thought  of  it,  we  can  only  guess.  It  offered 
him  a  chance  at  action.  At  worst  the  daughter  of  Pedrarias 
was  a  long  way  off.  It  would  be  months  before  she  could 

Towards  the  middle  of  1516,  this  peace  patched  up  with 
Pedrarias,  we  find  Vasco  Nunez  at  Acla,  preparing  an  expe- 
dition to  seek  further  into  the  mystery  of  the  Southern  Sea. 
The  town  founded  by  Pedrarias  had  been  destroyed  by  the 
Indians.  Balboa  had  to  rebuild  it,  for  it  was  his  plan  to 
build  ships  there  and  transport  them  across  the  Isthmus  in 
sections.  It  was  an  undertaking  worthy  of  his  great  genius. 
If  it  had  been  a  daring  enterprise  to  cross  to  the  Pacific  the 
first  time,  it  was  indeed  desperate,  now  that  all  the  tribes 
were  implacably  hostile,  to  try  to  transport  so  large  a 

"No  living  man  in  all  the  Indies/'  Herrera  wrote,  "dared 
attempt  such  an  enterprise,  or  would  have  succeeded  at  it, 
save  Vasco  Nunez  de  Balboa." 

Early  in  1517  he  was  ready  to  start.  Within  six  months 
he  had  rebuilt  the  town,  established  ship-yards  and  put 
together  four  brigantines.  But  if  we  can  admire  the  cour- 


age  of  the  man  in  conceiving  and  executing  so  great  a  plan, 
we  cannot  this  time  follow  Vasco  Nunez  across  the  Isthmus 
with  the  same  hearty  sympathy.  It  is  interesting  to  specu- 
late on  how  different  a  manner  the  enterprise  would  have 
been  carried  through,  if  the  satelites  of  Pedrarias  had  not 
made  all  peaceful  intercourse  with  the  natives  impossible. 
It  is  possible  to  excuse  Balboa  much  under  the  circum- 
stances— but  this  expedition  left  a  long  trail  of  skeletons. 
The  heavy  carrying  was  done  by  natives,  no  longer  allies, 
but  slaves.  "More  than  500  Indians  perished  in  the  trans- 
portation of  these  ships,"  the  Bishop  of  Darien  reported. 
Las  Casas,  probably  much  nearer  the  truth,  puts  the  number 
at  2,000. 

Saddest  of  all,  this  hecatomb  was  useless.  When  the 
Spaniards  tried  to  put  their  ships  together  on  the  Pacific 
side,  they  found  that  the  timbers  were  honeycombed  with 
borings  of  the  ship  worm. 

It  was  necessary  to  begin  all  over  again.  New  ship-yards 
had  to  be  built  on  an  estuary  of  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel. 
Instead  of  being  the  honored  guests  of  the  natives,  as  Bal- 
boa's men  had  been  on  the  first  expedition,  they  had  to 
protect  themselves  with  stockades  and  were  smitten  with 
famine  in  this  war-swept  land. 

"In  all  labors,"  wrote  Las  Casas,  "Vasco  Nunez  took  the 
foremost  part,  working  with  his  own  hands  and  giving  aid 
and  encouragement  to  all."  Later,  with  his  ever-ready 
sympathy  for  the  oppressed,  the  good  monk  adds:  "When 
Vasco  Nunez  himself  was  forced  to  feed  on  roots,  it  may  well 
be  imagined  to  what  extremity  the  six  hundred  Indian  cap- 
tives were  reduced." 

But  at  last,  conquering  all  hardships  and  difficulties,  his 
hands  red  with  the  blood  of  the  natives,  Balboa  was  able  to 
launch  two  brigantines  and  sail  out  on  the  unknown  sea  he 
had  discovered.  He  made  his  headquarters  on  the  Isla 

224  PANAMA 

Rica,  as  he  had  christened  the  largest  of  the  Pearl  group. 
There  he  built  two  more  brigantines  and  with  his  little  fleet 
of  four  he  started  out  to  find  and  conquer  the  rich  land  to 
the  south.  Once  more  it  must  have  seemed  that  the  Fates 
were  smiling.  He  had  a  royal  commission  to  govern  all  the 
nations  he  might  discover  on  this  ocean.  There  was  yet 
a  chance  to  win  and  justly  rule  a  great  vice-royalty,  free 
from  the  murderous  interference  of  men  like  his  prospective 

But  these  first  navigators  of  this  unknown  sea  had  not 
learned  its  currents,  its  seasons  and  prevailing  winds.  Vasco 
Nunez  started  on  this  expedition  at  the  worst  time  of  year. 
After  beating  about  for  many  days  and  making  not  more 
than  twenty  leagues  beyond  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel,  he  was 
forced  by  adverse  winds  to  put  back  to  the  Isla  Rica.  At 
his  headquarters  he  found  messengers  with  a  rumor  that  a 
new  governor  had  been  appointed  for  Castillo  del  Oro  in 
place  of  Pedrarias. 

It  is  impossible  to  say  what  Vasco  Nunez  thought  of  the 
new  situation.  It  seems  hardly  credible  that  the  idea  of 
refusing  obedience  to  anyone  who  should  try  to  stop  him 
would  not  have  come  to  one  who  had  waited  so  long  for  an 
opportunity.  How  far  he  harbored  the  idea,  how  far  he 
may  have  discussed  the  possibility  with  trusted  friends,  we 
do  not  know.  But  he  does  not  seem  to  have  distrusted 
Pedrarias  nor  to  have  feared  his  interference. 

He  needed  provisions,  and  he  sent  some  of  his  men  over 
to  Santa  Maria  with  instructions  to  approach  the  village 
stealthily;  if  they  found  Pedrarias  still  in  power  they  were 
to  enter  boldly  and  ask  for  what  was  needed.  If,  however, 
they  found  a  new  governor  had  arrived,  they  were  to  find 
out  as  much  as  they  could  about  his  intentions  without  let- 
ting him  know  of  their  presence  and  return  to  Isla  Rica 
without  having  entered  the  town.  This  would  give  Vasco 


Nunez  the  chance,  if  the  new  governor  was  hostile,  to  slip 
anchor  and  make  a  bold  dash  for  fame  before  an  order  for 
his  recall  could  reach  him. 

It  is  of  course  impossible  to  measure  the  intentions  of  a 
man  so  long  dead,  but  there  has  been  preserved  no  evidence 
to  show  that  Vasco  Nunez  had  meditated  treason  against 

But  he  had  made  many  enemies.  It  is  probable  that 
Pizarro  and  many  of  his  old  comrades  who  had  deserted 
him  to  join  the  faction  of  Pedrarias  were  mightily  disturbed 
at  the  reconciliation  which  the  Bishop  of  Darien  had  ef- 
fected. And  besides  these  political  enemies  there  were 
those  who  harbored  a  personal  grudge.  One  of  the  men 
whom  Vasco  Nunez  sent  over  on  this  mission  to  Santa 
Maria  was  one  of  these.  He  had  desired  the  beautiful 
daughter  of  Careta,  who  was  Balboa's  mistress.  She  had 
complained  of  his  advances  and  the  man  had  been  warned 
to  desist.  This  jealous  wretch  concocted  a  story  of  a  deep 
and  dark  conspiracy  to  throw  off  allegiance  from  king  and 
governor  and  establish  an  independent  empire  in  the  South- 
ern Sea.  He  based  his  accusation  on  some  scraps  of  conver- 
sation which  a  sentry  before  Balboa's  door  had  overheard 
one  night,  when  a  shower  had  given  him  excuse  to  crowd 
close  to  the  wattel  wall  and  eavesdrop. 

Arrived  in  Santa  Maria,  finding  Pedrarias  still  in  power, 
this  man  retailed  his  suspicions  to  the  enemies  of  Vasco 
Nunez.  The  informer  was  afraid  to  make  an  open  accusa- 
tion, so  the  gang  arranged  to  have  him  arrested  and  forced 
to  "  confess."  The  story  was  infected  with  just  those  drops 
of  venom  most  likely  to  enrage  Pedrarias — to  wound  his 
pride.  It  was  said  that  Balboa  openly  made  sport  of  him 
and  his  daughter.  His  love  for  his  Indian  bride  was  said 
to  be  his  motive  for  cutting  loose  from  his  allegiance.  Noth- 
ing which  they  could  think  of  to  stir  the  old  man's  anger 

226  PANAMA 

did  they  neglect.  Suspicious,  as  are  all  tyrants,  he  was  not 
hard  to  convince.  Age  seemed  to  increase  the  viciousness 
of  Pedrarias.  So  brutal  and  miserly  had  he  become  that 
the  Bishop  of  Darien,  he  of  the  itching  palm,  had  reached 
the  end  of  his  large  tolerance  and  had  gone  to  Spain  to  lay 
complaints  before  the  throne. 

Pedrarias  sent  a  loving  letter  to  his  dear  son-in-law, 
saying  that  he  needed  his  counsel  in  some  grave  matters 
and  begging  him  to  come  to  Santa  Maria,  before  sailing. 
That  Vasco  Nunez  fell  into  the  trap  and  came,  is  strong 
evidence  that  his  conscience  was  clear  of  any  meditated 
treachery  to  the  old  man.  As  he  came  within  sight  of 
Acla,  he  was  met  by  a  body  of  soldiers  under  Francisco 
Pizarro  and  put  under  arrest.  For  a  few  days  the  comedy 
of  a  trial  was  performed  in  Acla  and  then  a  decree  of  death 
against  Balboa  and  three  of  his  friends  cleared  the  stage  for 

"It  was  a  day  of  gloom  and  horror  at  Acla,"  Irving  wrote, 
"when  Vasco  Nunez  and  his  companions  were  led  forth  to 
execution.  The  populace  were  moved  to  tears  at  the  un- 
happy fate  of  a  man,  whose  gallant  deeds  had  excited  their 
admiration,  and  whose  generous  qualities  had  won  their 
hearts.  Most  of  them  regarded  him  as  the  victim  of  a 
jealous  tyrant;  and  even  those  who  thought  him  guilty, 
saw  something  brave  and  brilliant  in  the  very  crime  im- 
puted to  him.  Such,  however,  was  the  general  dread  in- 
spired by  the  severe  measures  of  Pedrarias,  that  no  one 
dared  to  lift  up  his  voice,  either  in  murmur  or  remonstrance. 

"The  public  crier  walked  before  Vasco  Nunez,  proclaim- 
ing: 'This  is  the  punishment  inflicted  by  command  of  the 
king  and  his  lieutenant,  Don  Pedrarias  Davila,  on  this  man 
as  a  traitor  and  an  usurper  of  the  territories  of  the  crown.' 

"When  Vasco  Nunez  heard  these  words,  he  exclaimed 
indignantly,  'It  is  false!  Never  did  such  a  crime  enter  my 


mind.  I  have  ever  served  my  king  with  truth  and  loyalty, 
and  sought  to  augment  his  dominions.' 

"  These  words  were  of  no  avail  in  his  extremity,  but  they 
were  fully  believed  by  the  populace. 

"The  execution  took  place  in  the  public  square  of  Acla; 
and  we  are  assured  by  the  historian  Oviedo,  who  was  in  the 
colony  at  the  time,  that  the  cruel  Pedrarias  was  a  secret 
witness  of  the  bloody  spectacle;  which  he  contemplated 
from  between  the  reeds  of  the  wall  of  a  house  about  twelve 
paces  from  the  scaffold! 

"Vasco  Nunez  was  the  first  to  suffer  death.  Having  con- 
fessed himself  and  partaken  of  the  sacrament,  he  ascended 
the  scaffold  with  a  firm  step  and  a  calm  and  manly  de- 
meanor; and,  laying  his  head  upon  the  block,  it  was  severed 
in  an  instant  from  his  body.  Three  of  his  officers,  Valderra- 
bona,  Botello,  and  Hernan  Munos,  were  in  like  manner 
brought  one  by  one  to  the  block,  and  the  day  had  nearly 
expired  before  the  last  of  them  was  executed." 

Peter  Martyr  philosophically  remarks:  "And  this  is  the 
rewarde  wherewith  the  blynde  goddesse  oftentymes  recom- 
penseth  such  as  haue  suteyned  great  trauayls  and  daungiours 
to  bee  hyghly  in  her  fauoure." 

The  rest  of  the  story  of  Don  Pedro  Arias  de  Avila  is,  like 
what  has  gone  before,  a  record  of  treacherous  villainy  and 
inhuman  cruelties.  No  sooner  was  Vasco  Nunez  out  of  the 
way  than  he  committed  the  identical  crime  for  which  his 
victim  had  been  unjustly  executed.  Knowing  that  in  the 
face  of  the  accusation  being  brought  against  him  by  Oviedo, 
Las  Casas  and  Quevedo,  his  friend  the  bishop,  Fonseca, 
could  not  protect  him  much  longer,  he  abandoned  the  north 
coast  of  the  Isthmus  and  tried  to  establish  himself  on  the 
South  Sea.  He  made  his  headquarters  at  Panama,  which 
was  rapidly  becoming  a  centre  of  population. 

In  May,  1520,  Lope  de  Sosa,  the  man  sent  out  to  replace 

228  PANAMA 

him,  arrived  in  the  harbor  of  Santa  Maria,  but  died  before 
landing.  This  gave  Pedrarias  a  new  lease  of  power. 

On  September  15,  1521,  Panama  was  given  a  royal  charter 
and  the  bishopric  was  transferred  from  Santa  Maria.  The 
Fray  Vincente  de  Peraza,  the  second  Bishop  of  Panama,  was 
poisoned  by  Pedrarias  very  shortly  after  his  arrival.  But  as 
things  began  to  get  too  hot  for  him  in  the  "muy  Noble  y 
muy  Leal  Ciudad  de  Panama,"  Pedrarias  changed  his  base 
to  Nicaragua.  When  Pedro  de  los  Rios,  the  next  governor, 
arrived  in  Panama  on  July  30th,  1526,  the  bird  had  flown. 

Fortunately  we  do  not  have  to  follow  his  bloody  career 
after  he  left  the  Isthmus.  He  came  back  once  in  1527  and 
again  we  hear  of  him  in  a  characteristic  manner.  The 
Council  of  Panama  gave  him  permission  to  open  a  slave- 
market  in  that  city  to  dispose  of  the  captives  he  was  making 
in  Nicaragua. 

He  died  in  July,  1530 — unhung. 



IT  has  been  said  that  the  Isthmus  is  more  renowned  for 
those  who  have  crossed  it  than  for  those  who  have  lived 
there.  Certainly  its  greatest  claim  for  fame  is  that  it  was 
the  outfitting  station  for  the  discovery  and  conquest  of  Peru. 
No  other  event  so  deeply  affected  its  history. 

Vasco  Nunez  had  dreamed  of  this  achievement.  His 
ambition  had  been  cheated  by  the  axe  of  Pedrarias.  But 
his  death  only  postponed  the  exploration  of  the  Southern  Sea 
— only  transferred  to  less  worthy  hands  the  great  task  of 

Very  shortly  after  establishing  himself  on  the  Pacific, 
Pedrarias  sent  out  an  expedition  under  the  command  of  a 
cavalier  named  Pascual  de  Andagoya.  But  this  officer  fell 
sick  and  was  forced  to  return  before  he  had  passed  the  twenty 
league  mark  of  exploration  fixed  by  Balboa. 

Peru  existed  in  the  minds  of  men  only  as  a  rumor.  The 
Spaniards  had  received  just  as  glowing  accounts  from  the 
natives  of  the  Golden  Temple  of  Dabaiba.  It  was  as  unreal 
an  El  Dorado  as  was  Ponce*  de  Leon's  "Fountain  of  Perpetual 
Youth."  The  Spaniards  were  decidedly  sick  of  such  ven- 
tures. The  Aurea  Chersoneus  which  Columbus  had  de- 
scribed so  alluringly  had  led  them  to  the  death  trap  of 
Nombre  de  Dios.  This  "Castilla  del  Oro"  had  proven  to 
be  built  as  much  of  hardships,  famines  and  fevers,  as  of  gold. 
There  was  doubtless  many  a  colonist  of  Panama,  eking  out 
a  meagre  living  from  their  Indian  slaves — they  died  with 


230  PANAMA 

such  discouraging  rapidity — who  felt  that  they  would  have 
been  much  better  off  at  home.  Mexico  had  not  yet  been  dis- 
covered. Prescott  expresses  surprise  that  the  southern 
explorations  were  so  long  delayed.  It  seems  more  wonder- 
ful to  me  that  they  were  attempted.  Nothing  but  the  un- 
conquerable romance  of  the  age  could  have  kept  alive  faith 
in  cities  of  gold. 

However,  Francisco  Pizarro  kept  in  mind  the  stories  he 
had  heard  from  the  Cacique  of  the  Pearl  Islands,  and  when 
in  1524  the  news  of  the  rich  kingdom  subdued  by  Cortez 
reached  Panama,  he  was  able  to  draw  two  of  the  colonists 
into  his  scheme.  Prescott  gives  the  following  characteriza- 
tion of  the  three  men: 

"On  the  removal  of  the  seat  of  government  across  the 
Isthmus  to  Panama,  Pizarro  accompanied  Pedrarias,  and 
his  name  became  conspicuous  among  the  cavaliers  who 
extended  the  line  of  conquest  to  the  north,  over  the  martial 
tribes  of  Veragua.  But  all  these  expeditions,  whatever  glory 
they  may  have  brought  him,  were  productive  of  very  little 
gold;  and  at  the  age  of  fifty,  the  captain  Pizarro  found  him- 
self in  possession  only  of  a  tract  of  unhealthy  land  in  the 
neighborhood  of  the  capital,  and  of  such  repartimientos  of  the 
natives  as  were  deemed  suited  to  his  military  services.  The 
New  World  was  a  lottery,  where  the  great  prizes  were  so 
few  that  the  odds  were  much  against  the  player;  yet  in  the 
game  he  was  content  to  stake  health,  fortune,  and  too  often, 
his  fair  fame. 

"There  is  no  evidence  that  Pizarro  showed  any  particular 
alacrity  in  the  cause.  Nor  were  his  own  funds  such  as  to 
warrant  any  expectation  of  success  without  great  assistance 
from  others.  He  found  this  in  two  individuals  of  the  colony, 
who  took  too  important  a  part  in  the  subsequent  transactions 
not  to  be  particularly  noticed. 

"One  of  them,  Diego  de  Almagro,  was  a  soldier  of  fortune, 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PEEU  231 

somewhat  older,  it  seems  probable,  than  Pizarro;  though 
little  is  known  of  his  birth,  and  even  the  place  of  it  is  dis- 
puted. .  .  .  Few  particulars  are  known  of  him  till  the 
present  period  of  our  history;  for  he  was  one  of  those  whom 
the  working  of  turbulent  times  first  throws  upon  the  surface, 
less  fortunate,  perhaps,  than  if  left  in  their  original  obscurity. 
In  his  military  career,  Almagro  had  earned  the  reputation 
of  a  gallant  soldier.  He  was  frank  and  liberal  in  his  disposi- 
tion, somewhat  hasty  and  ungovernable  in  his  passions,  but 
like  men  of  a  sanguine  temperament,  after  the  first  sallies 
had  passed  away,  not  difficult  to  be  appeased.  .  .  . 

"The  other  member  of  the  confederacy  was  Hernando  de 
Luque,  a  Spanish  ecclesiastic,  who  exercised  the  functions 
of  vicar  at  Panama,  and  had  formerly  filled  the  office  of 
schoolmaster  in  the  Cathedral  of  Darien.  He  seems  to  have 
been  a  man  of  singular  prudence  and  knowledge  of  the  world; 
and  by  his  respectable  qualities  had  acquired  considerable 
influence  in  the  little  community  to  which  he  belonged,  as 
well  as  the  control  of  funds,  which  made  his  cooperation 
essential  to  the  success  of  the  present  enterprise.  .  .  . 

"The  associates  found  no  difficulty  in  obtaining  the  con- 
sent of  the  governor  to  their  undertaking.  .  .  .  He  was 
probably  not  displeased  that  the  burden  of  the  enterprise 
should  be  borne  by  others,  so  long  as  a  good  share  of  the 
profits  went  into  his  own  coffers.  This  he  did  not  overlook 
in  his  stipulations." 

There  is  some  dispute  as  to  what  bargain  Pedrarias  drove 
with  the  three  adventurers,  but  the  weight  of  evidence  is 
that  he  held  them  up  for  one  fourth  of  the  profits  in  con- 
sideration of  his  passive  consent.  It  is  also  generally  agreed 
that  Father  Luque  was  acting  in  the  matter  as  agent  for 
Gaspar  de  Espinosa,  the  Alcade  Mayor,  who  had  won  fame 
by  riding  an  ass  and  by  his  barbaric  cruelties. 

No  sooner  had  these  preliminary  arrangements  been  com- 

232  PANAMA 

pleted  than  the  three  confederates  began  operations.  With 
the  money  furnished  by  Luque  they  bought  and  equipped 
two  small  ships.  One  of  them  was  the  brigantine  which 
Vasco  Nunez  had  built  for  the  same  undertaking.  They  had 
much  difficulty  in  enlisting  men  for  the  expedition.  So 
little  sympathy  had  the  people  of  Panama  for  the  Peruvian 
venture  that  they  made  the  vicar  the  butt  of  a  rather  weak 
pun,  calling  him  "Padre  Luque  o  loco."  "Loco"  being 
the  Spanish  word  for  madman.  But  at  length  they  mustered 
a  hundred  men — the  refuse  of  the  colony — to  go  with 
Pizarro  on  the  first  ship. 

It  was  not  necessary  to  follow  the  well-known  adventures 
of  Pizarro  in  detail,  but  rather  to  recount  the  part  which 
Panama  played  in  the  great  adventure.  It  was  a  decidedly 
sorry  part.  What  little  help  the  colony  gave  to  the  enter- 
prise was  given  grudgingly.  Almagro  could  only  find  seventy 
men  willing  to  sail  on  the  supporting  expedition. 

Pizarro  and  Almagro  soon  reached  the  end  of  their  re- 
sources and  turned  back.  To  return  to  Panama  meant  the 
disbanding  of  the  little  force  they  had  already  collected. 
So  Almagro  went  back  alone  to  see  if  he  could  make  some 
satisfactory  arrangements  with  the  governor.  But  he  found 
Pedrarias  suddenly  turned  hostile  to  the  scheme.  He  was 
himself  fitting  out  an  expedition  for  a  venture  in  Nicaragua 
and  at  first  he  would  not  countenance  any  further  recruiting 
for  the  south.  In  fact  so  little  did  he  think  of  the  Peruvian 
enterprise  that,  needing  ready  money  for  his  own  plans, 
he  sold  out  his  original  interest  in  the  combine  for  one 
thousand  pesos  in  gold.  The  old  miser  was  so  pleased  with 
this  sharp  bargain  that  he  relented  and  removed  his  pro- 
hibition on  recruiting.  Pizarro  now  came  to  Panama  and 
the  three  partners  drew  up  the  famous  contract  of  which 
Prescott  gives  this  description : 

"The   instrument,   after   invoking  in  the   most   solemn 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  233 

manner  the  names  of  the  Holy  Trinity  and  our  Lady  the 
Blessed  Virgin,  sets  forth,  that  whereas  the  parties  have  full 
authority  to  discover  and  subdue  the  countries  and  provinces 
lying  south  of  the  Gulf,  belonging  to  the  empire  of  Peru,  and 
as  Fernando  de  Luque  had  advanced  the  funds  for  the  en- 
terprise in  bars  of  gold  of  the  value  of  twenty  thousand 
pesos,  they  mutually  bind  themselves  to  divide  equally  among 
them  the  whole  of  the  conquered  territory.  .  .  . 

"The  two  captains  solemnly  engage  to  devote  themselves 
exclusively  to  the  present  undertaking  until  it  is  accom- 
plished; .  .  . 

"The  commanders,  Pizarro  and  Almagro,  made  oath,  in 
the  name  of  God  and  the  Holy  Evangelists,  sacredly  to  keep 
this  covenant,  swearing  it  on  the  missal,  on  which  they 
traced  with  their  own  hands  the  sacred  emblem  of  the  cross. 
To  give  still  greater  efficacy  to  the  compact,  Father  Luque 
administered  the  sacrament  to  the  parties,  dividing  the 
consecrated  wafer  into  three  portions,  of  which  each  one  of 
them  partook;  while  the  bystanders,  says  an  historian,  were 
affected  to  tears  by  this  spectacle  of  the  solemn  ceremonial 
with  which  these  men  voluntarily  devoted  themselves  to  a 
sacrifice  that  seemed  little  short  of  insanity. 

"The  instrument,  which  was  dated  March  10,  1526,  was 
subscribed  by  Luque,  and  attested  by  three  respectable 
citizens  of  Panama,  one  of  whom  signed  on  behalf  of  Pizarro, 
and  the  other  for  Almagro;  since  neither  of  these  parties, 
according  to  the  avowal  of  the  instrument,  was  able  to  sub- 
scribe his  own  name. 

"Such  was  the  singular  compact  by  which  three  obscure 
individuals  coolly  carved  out  and  partitioned  among  them- 
selves an  empire,  of  whose  extent,  power,  and  resources,  of 
whose  situation,  of  whose  existence,  even,  they  had  no  sure 
or  precise  knowledge.  The  positive  and  unhesitating  man- 
ner in  which  they  speak  of  the  grandeur  of  this  empire,  of 

234  PANAMA 

its  stores  of  wealth,  .  .  .  forms  a  striking  contrast  with 
the  general  scepticism  and  indifference  manifested  by  nearly 
every  other  person,  high  and  low,  in  the  community  of 

Two  larger  vessels  were  now  procured  and  a  poster  put  up 
which  asked  for  volunteers  for  the  expedition.  But  the  idea 
was  no  more  popular  among  the  sceptical  citizens  of  Panama 
than  it  had  been  at  first.  With  the  most  lurid  promises  they 
were  only  able  to  raise  their  force  to  one  hundred  and  sixty 
men.  This  time  they  sailed  directly  south  to  the  Rio  de 
San  Juan,  the  limit  of  Almagro's  first  voyage.  Here  they 
landed,  and  although  yet  far  from  the  domains  of  the  Inca, 
they  found  the  natives  wearing  gold  ornaments  and  secured 
a  large  booty.  Pizarro,  with  most  of  the  men,  started  to 
explore  the  interior,  Bartholome  Ruiz,  their  pilot,  cruised 
south  in  the  larger  boat  and  Almagro  returned  to  Panama 
with  the  booty,  to  secure  if  possible  more  recruits. 

At  Panama  he  found  a  new  governor,  Don  Pedro  de  los 
Rios.  Pedrarias,  taking  with  him  everything  which  was 
not  nailed  down,  had  emigrated  to  Nicaragua,  where  he 
would  be  a  little  further  removed  from  royal  justice.  De  los 
Rios  had  been  especially  instructed  to  push  forward  the 
exploration  of  the  Southern  Sea,  so  he  gave  Almagro  every 
encouragement.  Eighty  men  who  had  come  out  in  the 
retinue  of  the  new  governor  volunteered  to  accompany  him. 
The  older  and  more  experienced  colonists  laughed  up  their 
sleeves  at  the  way  in  which  these  "greenhorns,"  fresh  from 
Spain,  allowed  themselves  to  be  lured  into  so  barren  an 

Meanwhile  Ruiz  had  sailed  south  half  a  degree  beyond  the 
equator,  being  the  first  European  to  cross  it  in  those  waters. 
But  of  much  greater  importance  was  his  encounter  with  a 
native  boat,  " balsa"  or  raft  the  Spaniards  called  it.  It 
was  the  first  boat  equipped  with  sails  which  they  had  seen. 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  235 

Aboard  it  were  some  merchants  from  the  Peruvian  town  of 
Tumbez.  The  Spaniards  were  immensely  impressed  by  the 
signs  of  civilization;  cloth  woven  from  the  wool  of  llamas, 
and  wonder  of  wonders,  a  balance  for  weighing  gold!  Ruiz 
kidnapped  the  Peruvians,  with  the  intention  of  training  them 
as  interpreters,  and  sailed  back  to  join  Pizarro.  He  found 
his  commander  reduced  to  the  last  extremity  from  the  in- 
hospitality  of  the  country  and  the  fierce  hostility  of  the 

Shortly  after  his  return,  Almagro  arrived  with  the  new 
recruits.  The  united  forces  now  started  down  the  coast 
explored  by  Ruiz.  Everywhere  they  encountered  increasing 
evidences  of  a  high  civilization  and  of  a  formidable  enemy. 
It  became  evident  that  they  would  need  a  much  larger  army 
to  hope  for  success  in  this  country. 

Again  it  was  decided  to  send  Almagro  back  to  Panama  for 
reenforcements.  Pizarro  was  to  winter  his  little  army  on 
the  Island  of  Gallo.  This  plan  met  with  serious  opposition 
from  the  men.  Those  who  had  experienced  the  hardships  of 
waiting  with  Pizarro  were  if  anything  less  indignant  than 
the  raw  recruits  from  Spain.  They  were  more  than  sick 
of  the  continual  buffeting  of  the  waves.  They  had  come 
out  to  the  New  World  in  quest  of  romantic  adventure  and 
easily-acquired  gold.  This  island  offered  little  prospect  of 
booty,  very  little  of  food.  They  all  clamored  for  a  return. 
But  the  leaders  foresaw  that  such  a  course  would  mean  the 
collapse  of  the  whole  undertaking.  So  Almagro  sailed  away. 
But  not  before  one  of  the  discontented  soldiers,  named 
Sarobia,  had  smuggled  a  letter  aboard  done  up  in  a  ball  of 
cotton — a  curiosity  in  the  New  World — which,  as  a  speci- 
men of  the  riches  of  the  country,  was  to  be  given  to  the  wife 
of  the  governor.  Prescott  gives  this  description  of  the  inci- 

"The  letter,  which  was  signed  by  several  of  the  disaffected 

236  PANAMA 

soldiery  besides  the  writer,  painted  in  gloomy  colors  the 
miseries  of  their  condition,  accused  the  two  commanders  of 
being  the  authors  of  this,  and  called  on  the  authorities  of 
Panama  to  interfere  by  sending  a  vessel  to  take  them  from 
the  desolate  spot.  .  .  .  The  epistle  concluded  with  a 
stanza,  in  which  the  two  leaders  were  stigmatized  as  partners 
in  a  slaughter-house;  one  being  employed  to  drive  in  the 
cattle  for  the  other  to  butcher.  The  verses,  which  had  a 
currency  in  their  day  among  the  colonies  to  which  they  were 
certainly  not  entitled  by  their  poetical  merits,  may  be  thus 
rendered  into  corresponding  doggerel: 

Look  out,  senor  Governor, 
For  the  drover  while  he's  near  ; 
Since  he  goes  home  to  get  the  sheep 
For  the  butcher,  who  stays  here. 

"Great  was  the  dismay  occasioned  by  the  return  of 
Almagro  and  his  followers  in  the  little  community  of  Panama; 
for  the  letter,  surreptitiously  conveyed  in  the  ball  of  cotton, 
fell  into  the  hands  for  which  it  was  intended,  and  the  con- 
tents soon  got  abroad  with  the  usual  quantity  of  exaggeration. 
The  haggard  and  dejected  mien  of  the  adventurers,  of  itself, 
told  a  tale  sufficiently  disheartening,  and  it  was  soon  generally 
believed  that  the  few  ill-fated  survivors  of  the  expedition 
were  detained  against  their  will  by  Pizarro,  to  end  their  days 
with  their  disappointed  leader  on  his  desolate  island. 

"Pedro  de  los  Rios,  the  governor,  was  so  much  incensed  at 
the  result  of  the  expedition,  and  the  waste  of  life  it  had 
occasioned  to  the  colony,  that  he  turned  a  deaf  ear  to  all 
the  applications  of  Luque  and  Almagro  for  further  coun- 
tenance in  the  affair;  he  derided  their  sanguine  anticipations 
of  the  future,  and  finally  resolved  to  send  an  officer  to  the 
isle  of  Gallo,  with  orders  to  bring  back  every  Spaniard  whom 
he  should  find  still  living  in  that  dreary  abode.  Two  vessels 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PEBU  237 

were  immediately  dispatched  for  the  purpose,  and  placed  un- 
der charge  of  a  cavalier  named  Tafur,  a  native  of  Cordova." 

The  arrival  of  Tafur  at  the  Island  of  Gallo  was  the  turning 
point  in  the  career  of  Pizarro.  If  he  had  faltered  some  one 
else's  name  would  have  come  down  to  us  as  that  of  the 
conqueror  of  Peru.  But  of  all  Pizarro's  characteristics  the 
ability  to  hang  on  was  the  most  salient.  It  was  never  more 
surely  demonstrated  than  during  this  crisis.  It  was  just 
such  incidents  as  this  which  especially  appealed  to  the  school 
of  romantic  historians  of  which  Prescott  was  so  notable  an 
example.  It  furnishes  him  with  a  text  for  one  of  his  most 
eloquent  passages: 

"Drawing  his  sword,  he  traced  a  line  with  it  on  the  sand 
from  east  to  west.  Then  turning  toward  the  south,  '  Friends 
and  comrades!'  he  said,  'on  that  side  are  toil,  hunger,  naked- 
ness, the  drenching  storm,  desertion,  and  death;  on  this  side, 
ease  and  pleasure.  There  lies  Peru  with  its  riches;  here, 
Panama  and  its  poverty.  Choose,  each  man,  what  best  be- 
comes a  brave  Castilian.  For  my  part,  I  go  to  the  south.' 
So  saying,  he  stepped  across  the  line.  He  was  followed  by 
the  brave  pilot  Ruiz;  next  by  Pedro  de  Candia,  a  cavalier, 
born,  as  his  name  imparts,  in  one  of  the  isles  of  Greece. 
Eleven  others  successively  crossed  the  line,  thus  intimating 
their  willingness  to  abide  the  fortunes  of  their  leader,  for 
good  or  for  evil.  Fame,  to  quote  the  enthusiastic  language 
of  an  ancient  chronicler,  has  commemorated  the  names  of 
this  little  band,  'who  thus,  in  the  face  of  difficulties  un- 
exampled in  history,  with  death  rather  than  riches  for  their 
reward,  preferred  it  all  to  abandoning  their  honor,  and  stood 
firm  by  their  leader  as  an  example  of  loyalty  to  future  ages.' " 

Pizarro  and  his  devoted  band  of  thirteen  had  a  desperate 
period  of  waiting.  " Meanwhile,"  Prescott  continues,  "the 
vessel  of  Tafur  had  reached  the  port  of  Panama.  The 
tidings  which  she  brought  of  the  inflexible  obstinacy  of 

238  PANAMA 

Pizarro  and  his  followers  filled  the  governor  with  indignation. 
He  could  look  on  it  in  no  other  light  than  as  an  act  of  suicide, 
and  steadily  refused  to  send  further  assistance  to  men  who 
were  obstinately  bent  on  their  own  destruction.  Yet  Luque 
and  Almagro  were  true  to  their  engagements.  They  repre- 
sented to  the  governor,  that  if  the  conduct  of  their  comrade 
was  rash,  it  was  at  least  in  the  service  of  the  Crown,  and  in 
prosecuting  the  great  work  of  discovery.  Rios  had  been 
instructed  on  his  taking  the  government,  to  aid  Pizarro  in 
the  enterprise;  and  to  desert  him  now  would  be  to  throw 
away  the  remaining  chance  of  success,  and  to  incur  the 
responsibility  of  his  death  and  that  of  the  brave  men  who 
adhered  to  him.  These  remonstrances  at  length  so  far 
operated  on  the  mind  of  that  functionary,  that  he  reluctantly 
consented  that  a  vessel  should  be  sent  to  the  island  of  Gor- 
gona,  but  with  no  more  hands  than  were  necessary  to  work 
her,  and  with  positive  instructions  to  Pizarro  to  return  in 
six  months  and  report  himself  at  Panama,  whatever  might 
be  the  future  results  of  his  expedition. 

"Having  thus  secured  the  sanction  of  the  executive,  the 
two  associates  lost  no  time  in  fitting  out  a  small  vessel  with 
stores  and  a  supply  of  arms  and  ammunition,  and  dispatched 
it  to  the  island.  And  although,  when  the  vessel  anchored 
off  the  shore,  Pizarro  was  disappointed  to  find  that  it  brought 
no  additional  recruits  for  the  enterprise,  yet  he  greeted  it 
with  joy,  as  affording  the  means  of  solving  the  great  problem 
of  the  existence  of  the  rich  southern  empire,  and  of  thus 
opening  the  way  for  its  future  conquest." 

In  due  course  of  time  they  arrived  at  Tumbez  and,  being 
so  few,  were  polite,  and  so  were  hospitably  received.  Once 
more  I  will  turn  the  narrative  over  to  Prescott : 

"As  they  drew  near,  they  beheld  a  town  of  considerable 
size,  with  many  of  the  buildings  apparently  of  stone  and 
plaster,  situated  in  the  bosom  of  a  fruitful  meadow,  which 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PEEU  239 

seemed  to  have  been  redeemed  from  the  sterility  of  the 
surrounding  country  by  careful  and  minute  irrigation.  When 
at  some  distance  from  shore,  Pizarro  saw  standing  toward 
him  several  large  balsas.  Running  alongside  of  the  Indian 
flotilla,  he  invited  some  of  the  chiefs  to  come  on  board  of  his 
vessel.  The  Peruvians  gazed  with  wonder  on  every  object 
which  met  their  eyes,  and  especially  on  their  own  country- 
men, whom  they  had  little  expected  to  meet  there.  The 
latter  informed  them  in  what  manner  they  had  fallen  into 
the  hands  of  the  strangers,  whom  they  described  as  a  won- 
derful race  of  beings,  that  had  come  thither  for  no  harm, 
but  solely  to  be  made  acquainted  with  the  country  and  its 
inhabitants.  This  account  was  confirmed  by  the  Spanish 
commander,  who  persuaded  the  Indians  to  return  in  their 
balsas  and  report  what  they  had  learned  to  their  towns- 
men, requesting  them  at  the  same  time  to  provide  his  vessel 
with  refreshments,  as  it  was  his  desire  to  enter  into  a  friendly 
intercourse  with  the  natives. 

"The  people  of  Tumbez  were  gathered  along  the  shore,  and 
were  gazing  with  unutterable  amazement  on  the  floating 
castle,  which,  now  having  dropped  anchor,  rode  lazily  at  its 
moorings  in  their  bay.  They  eagerly  listened  to  the  accounts 
of  their  countrymen,  and  instantly  reported  the  affair  to  the 
curaca  or  ruler  of  the  district,  who,  conceiving  that  the 
strangers  must  be  beings  of  a  superior  order,  prepared  at 
once  to  comply  with  their  request.  It  was  not  long  before 
several  balsas  were  seen  steering  for  the  vessel  laden  with 
bananas,  plantains,  yuca,  Indian  corn,  sweet  potatoes,  pine- 
apples, cocoanuts,  and  other  rich  products  of  the  bountiful 
vale  of  Tumbez.  .  .  . 

"On  the  day  following,  the  Spanish  captain  sent  one  of 
his  own  men,  named  Alonso  de  Molina,  on  shore.  .  .  . 
Toward  evening  his  emissary  returned  with  a  fresh  supply  of 
fruit  and  vegetables,  that  the  friendly  people  sent  to  the 

240  PANAMA 

vessel.  Molina  had  a  wondrous  tale  to  tell.  On  landing, 
he  was  surrounded  by  the  natives,  who  expressed  the  greatest 
astonishment  at  his  dress,  his  fair  complexion  and  his  long 

"Molina  was  then  escorted  to  the  residence  of  the  curaca, 
whom  he  found  living  in  much  state,  with  porters  stationed 
at  his  doors,  and  with  a  quantity  of  gold  and  silver  vessels 
from  which  he  was  served.  He  was  then  taken  to  different 
parts  of  the  Indian  city,  saw  a  fortress  built  of  rough  stone, 
and  though  low,  spreading  over  a  large  extent  of  ground. 
Near  this  was  a  temple;  and  the  Spaniard's  description  of  its 
decorations,  blazing  with  gold  and  silver,  seemed  so  extrava- 
gant, that  Pizarro,  distrusting  his  whole  account,  resolved 
to  send  a  more  discreet  and  trustworthy  emissary  on  the  fol- 
lowing day." 

After  spending  several  days  at  Tumbez,  they  continued 
their  cruise  to  nine  degrees  south  and  then  having  "spied 
out  the  land"  they  turned  north. 

"On  leaving  Tumbez  on  their  return  voyages,"  writes 
Prescott,  "the  adventurers  steered  directly  for  Panama 
.  .  .  and,  after  an  absence  of  at  least  eighteen  months, 
found  themselves  once  more  safely  riding  at  anchor  in  the 
harbor  of  Panama. 

"The  sensation  caused  by  their  arrival  was  great,  as  might 
have  been  expected.  For  there  were  few  even  among  the 
most  sanguine  of  their  friends,  who  did  not  imagine  that 
they  had  long  since  paid  for  their  temerity,  and  fallen  victims 
to  the  climate  or  the  natives,  or  miserably  perished  in  a 
watery  grave.  Their  joy  was  proportionably  great,  there- 
fore, as  they  saw  the  wanderers  now  returned,  not  only  in 
health  and  safety,  but  with  certain  tidings  of  the  fair  countries 
which  had  so  long  eluded  their  grasp.  It  was  a  moment  of 
proud  satisfaction  to  the  three  associates,  who,  in  spite  of 
obloquy,  derision,  and  every  impediment  which  the  distrust 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  241 

of  friends  or  the  coldness  of  government  could  throw  in  their 
way,  had  persevered  in  their  great  enterprise  until  they  had 
established  the  truth  of  what  had  been  so  generally  de- 
nounced as  a  chimera.  .  .  . 

"Yet  the  governor,  Pedro  de  los  Rios,  did  not  seem,  even 
at  this  moment,  to  be  possessed  with  a  conviction  of  the 
magnitude  of  the  discovery,  or,  perhaps,  he  was  discouraged 
by  its  very  magnitude.  When  the  associates,  now  with  more 
confidence,  applied  to  him  for  patronage  in  an  undertaking 
too  vast  for  their  individual  resources,  he  coldly  replied, 
'He  had  no  desire  to  build  up  other  estates  at  the  expense 
of  his  own:  nor  would  he  be  led  to  throw  away  more  lives  than 
had  already  been  sacrificed  by  the  cheap  display  of  gold  and 
silver  toys  and  a  few  Indian  sheep !  "J 

They  had  no  recourse  from  this  rebuff  except  an  appeal  to 
Caesar.  So  Pizarro  set  out  for  Spain.  It  is  typical  of  the 
times  that  no  one  of  the  three  confederates  trusted  the  others. 
They  made  Pizarro  bind  himself  with  endless  oaths  not  to 
play  them  false.  It  was  a  useless  precaution. 

He  arrived  in  Spain  in  1528  and  one  of  the  first  familiar 
faces  he  encountered  was  that  of  the  Bachelor  Enciso.  He 
promptly  clapped  Pizarro  in  prison  for  a  debt  dating  back 
to  the  early  days  of  Santa  Maria  de  la  Antigua.  However, 
Charles  V,  hearing  of  his  arrival,  ordered  his  liberation  and 
directed  him  to  come  at  once  to  court.  Here  he  found  his 
kinsman,  Hernand  Cortes,  freshly  returned  from  the  con- 
quest of  Mexico. 

Pizarro's  reception  at  court  was  enthusiastic.  He  was 
granted  ample  authority  to  pursue  his  adventure  and  was 
created  Governor,  Captain-General,  Adelantado  and  Alguacil 
Mayor  of  the  new  realm,  with  a  salary  of  725,000  maravedis. 
An  elaborate  contract  called  "The  Capitulation"  was  drawn 
up  between  him  and  the  crown.  It  is  dated  July  29,  1529. 

Pizarro  visited  his  native  town  of  Truxillo  and  gathered 

242  PANAMA 

up  his  brothers,  three  of  whom,  like  himself,  were  illegitimate. 
Oviedo  says  of  them,  "They  were  all  poor,  and  as  proud  as 
poor,  and  their  greed  for  gain  was  in  proportion  to  their 
penury."  They  proved  to  be  a  very  fruitful  source  of 
trouble  in  the  New  World. 

In  January,  1530,  with  less  than  one  hundred  and  fifty 
men,  Pizarro  sailed  from  Spain.  He  arrived  safely  at  Nombre 
de  Dios  where  he  found  his  two  associates  waiting  for  him. 
Their  indignation  was  immense  when  they  heard  the  terms  of 
the  capitulation.  In  spite  of  his  solemn  promises  to  deal 
justly  with  them,  Pizarro  had  monopolized  all  the  fat  offices. 
To  be  sure,  Luque  got  what  he  wanted,  the  bishopric  of 
Tumbez,  and  the  title  of  "Protector  of  the  Indians  of  Peru." 
An  illiterate  soldier  like  Pizarro  could  scarcely  ask  for 
ecclesiastical  offices.  But  there  was  nothing  left  for  Almagro 
except  command  of  the  fortress  of  Tumbez  with  a  salary  of 
300,000  maravedis  and  the  rank  of  "hidalgo."  However, 
the  quarrel  was  at  last  patched  up,  at  least  outwardly,  and 
they  passed  over  to  Panama. 

"No  time  was  now  lost  in  preparing  for  the  voyage,"  writes 
Prescott.  "It  found  little  encouragement,  however,  among 
the  colonists  of  Panama,  who  were  too  familiar  with  the 
sufferings  on  the  former  expeditions  to  care  to  undertake 
another,  even  with  the  rich  bribe  that  was  held  out  to  allure 
them.  A  few  of  the  old  company  were  content  to  follow  out 
the  adventure  to  its  close;  and  some  additional  stragglers 
collected  from  the  province  of  Nicaragua.  .  .  .  But 
Pizarro  made  slender  additions  to  the  force  brought  over 
with  him  from  Spain,  though  this  body  was  in  better  con- 
dition, and  in  respect  to  arms,  ammunition,  and  equipment 
generally,  was  on  a  much  better  footing  than  his  former  levies. 
The  whole  number  did  not  exceed  one  hundred  and  eighty 
men,  with  twenty-seven  horses  for  the  cavalry.  .  .  . 

"On  St.  John  the  Evangelist's  day,  the  banners  of  the 

TEE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  243 

company  and  the  royal  standard  were  consecrated  in  the 
cathedral  church  of  Panama;  a  sermon  was  preached  before 
the  little  army  by  Fray  Juan  de  Vargas,  one  of  the  Domini- 
cans selected  by  the  government  for  the  Peruvian  mission; 
and  mass  was  performed,  and  the  sacrament  administered 
to  every  soldier  previous  to  his  engaging  in  the  crusade 
against  the  infidel." 

The  little  fleet  sailed  from  the  roadstead  of  Panama  early 
in  January,  1531.  Very  few  of  the  hundred  and  eighty  men 
ever  came  back  to  Panama,  but  hundreds  and  thousands  of 
men  left  Panama  to  follow  their  sea  trail. 

Shortly  afterward,  Hernando  de  Soto,  who  was  later  to 
discover  the  Mississippi,  set  out  with  a  hundred  men  and 
some  horses  to  support  Pizarro.  A  year  later  Almagro  sailed 
with  a  hundred  and  fifty  men.  And  then  for  many  months 
the  people  of  Panama  heard  no  more  of  Peru.  They  went 
about  their  petty  round  of  slave  driving  and  as  the  weeks 
slipped  by  with  no  news,  they  began  again  to  poke  fun  at 
the  crazy  Padre  Luque. 

A  little  more  than  a  year  after  Almagro  had  sailed,  in  1533, 
the  lookouts  descried  some  ships  beating  up  from  the  south. 
Altogether,  in  the  three  installments,  eight  ships  had  gone 
down  the  coast.  There  were  only  two  coming  back.  One 
can  imagine  how  the  populace  crowded  down  to  the  beach, 
how  the  professional  skeptics  must  have  said,  "I  told  you  so." 
How  worried  the  Father  Luque  must  have  been. 

Hernando  Pizarro  was  on  board.  He  was  bringing  the 
King's  fifth  of  the  Inca's  ransom.  Sefior  Clemencin,  of  the 
Royal  Academy  of  History  at  Madrid,  made  a  deep  study 
of  the  relative  value  of  Spanish  currency  at  the  time  of  the 
discovery  and  our  own  money.  According  to  his  estimate, 
the  1,326,539  pesos  of  gold  to  which  the  Inca's  ransom 
amounted  would  weigh  almost  as  much  as  $4,000,000  in 
modern  gold,  and  have  a  purchasing  value  in  those  days 

244  PANAMA 

equal  to  four  times  as  much.  Besides  the  King's  fifth,  Her- 
nando  Pizarro  had  with  him  about  $6,000,000  belonging  to 

The  effect  of  all  this  wealth  on  Panama  was  tremendous. 
No  one  called  Luque  "loco"  any  more.  Everyone  cursed 
themselves  that  they  had  remained  scoffing  at  home.  Ex- 
cept for  the  strenuous  efforts  of  the  governor  the  colony 
would  have  been  depopulated.  The  tide  had  definitely  turn- 
ed southward.  Ship  after  ship  carried  hungry  adventurers 
down  the  coast. 

Hernando  Pizarro  proceeded  to  Spain.  He  arrived  in 
Seville  in  January,  1534.  His  appearance  created  an  im- 
mense sensation. 

"In  a  short  time,"  Prescott  writes,  "that  cavalier  saw 
himself  at  the  head  of  one  of  the  most  numerous  and  well- 
appointed  armaments,  probably,  that  had  left  the  shores 
of  Spain  since  the  great  fleet  of  Ovando,  in  the  time  of 
Ferdinand  and  Isabella.  It  was  scarcely  more  fortunate 
than  this.  Hardly  had  Hernando  put  to  sea,  when  a  violent 
tempest  fell  on  the  squadron,  and  compelled  him  to  return 
to  port  and  refit.  At  length  he  crossed  the  ocean,  and 
reached  the  little  harbor  of  Nombre  de  Dios  in  safety.  But 
no  preparations  had  been  made  for  his  coming,  and,  as  he  was 
detained  here  some  time  before  he  could  pass  the  mountains, 
his  company  suffered  greatly  from  scarcity  of  food.  In  their 
extremity  the  most  unwholesome  articles  were  greedily 
devoured,  and  many  a  cavalier  spent  his  little  savings  to 
procure  himself  a  miserable  subsistence.  Disease,  as  usual, 
trod  closely  in  the  track  of  famine,  and  numbers  of  the  un- 
fortunate adventurers,  sinking  under  the  unaccustomed  heats 
of  the  climate,  perished  on  the  very  threshold  of  discovery." 

But  the  passage  of  Hernando  Pizarro,  on  his  way  to  Spain 
with  this  immense  wealth,  had  an  even  greater  effect  on  the 
towns  of  Nombre  de  Dios  and  Panama.  The  Isthmus  had 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  245 

become  a  thoroughfare.  Not  only  were  the  riches  of  the  Incas 
greater  than  those  of  Mexico,  but  also  more  enduring.  Even 
after  the  country  had  been  glutted  of  its  ready  wrought 
gold  and  silver,  the  slave-worked  mines  continued  to  produce 
rich  returns.  Of  all  this  wealth  crossing  the  Isthmus  some 
of  course  stuck  by  the  way.  The  rapid  rush  of  immigrants, 
the  growing  trade,  forced  the  development  of  industry. 
Ships  had  to  be  built,  armor  made  and  repaired,  expeditions 
outfitted.  Panama  had  a  boom ! 

Civil  war  soon  broke  out  in  Peru.  The  long-standing  feud 
between  Francisco  Pizarro  and  Almagro  came  to  an  issue. 
Almagro  was  executed  on  a  rather  slender  case  of  treason. 
His  followers  rallied  about  his  half-breed  son  Diego  and  they 
in  time  assassinated  Francisco  Pizarro.  A  new,  and  on 
the  whole,  able  governor,  Vasco  de  Castro,  arrived  in  1541, 
but  he  was  soon  succeeded  by  a  blunderer  named  Vasco 
Nunez  Vela,  who  was  sent  out  to  enforce  the  "new  laws" 
in  defence  of  the  natives  which  had  been  proclaimed  by  the 
throne  on  the  instance  of  Las  Casas. 

Vasco  Nunez  Vela,  the  governor  who  was  sent  out  to 
administer  them,  was  a  stupid  man,  a  martinet  of  violent 
temper.  Almost  as  soon  as  he  arrived  in  Peru,  he  developed  a 
suspicious  temper,  throwing  his  predecessor  de  Castro  into 
prison  and  very  shortly  murdering  with  his  own  hand  a  very 
popular  and  apparently  upright  man  named  Suarez  de  Car- 
bajal.  This  and  other  acts  of  senseless  tyranny  soon  made 
him  insupportable  and  he  was  thrown  into  prison  by  the 
Audiencia,  or  judicial  body,  after  an  informal  impeachment. 
The  judges  then  pronounced  Gonzalo  Pizarro,  a  brother  of 
Francisco,  viceroy.  Vasco  Nunez  Vela,  escaped  from  his 
captors,  rallied  a  small  army  and  took  the  field.  On  January 
18,  1546,  he  was  utterly  defeated  by  Pizarro,  and  being  taken 
prisoner  was  beheaded  by  a  negro  slave  belonging  to  a  brother 
of  the  Carbajal  whom  he  had  himself  murdered. 

246  PANAMA 

This  victory  left  Gonzalo  Pizarro  in  control  of  the  vast 
empire  of  Peru.  He  had  a  large  and  seasoned  army,  the 
silver  mines  of  Potosi  were  bringing  him  in  a  revenue  which 
rivaled  that  of  any  European  ruler.  His  large  navy  gave 
him  command  of  the  sea,  and  his  admiral,  Hinojosa,  occupied 
the  Isthmus.  He  was  indeed  in  a  position  which  might  well 
have  turned  the  head  of  a  man  less  proud  and  ambitious. 
It  would  have  been  a  bold  prophet  who  would  have  said  that 
the  King  of  Spain  could  send  out  a  strong  enough  force  to 
reduce  him.  First  of  all  such  an  armament  would  have 
had  to  cross  the  Atlantic,  then  fight  its  way  across  the  moun- 
tain breastworks  of  the  Isthmus.  Then  it  would  have  had  to 
build  a  navy  capable  of  overthrowing  Hinojosa,  and  then  at 
last  meet  the  flower  of  Spanish  knighthood  and  desperado- 
dom  in  the  almost  inaccessible  Andes.  Any  army  which 
could  have  fought  its  way  so  far  in  the  face  of  the  fevers 
would  indeed  have  been  remarkable. 

However,  within  two  years  Gonzalo  Pizarro  was  beheaded 
by  a  legitimate  Spanish  viceroy.  The  man  who  did  it  was 
a  priest,  Pedro  de  la  Gasca.  He  was  undoubtedly  the  most 
remarkable  man  who  ever  crossed  the  Isthmus. 

De  la  Gasca  was  born  near  the  end  of  the  fifteenth  cen- 
tury; he  had  been  educated  in  the  famous  university  of 
Salamanca  and  had  become  a  member  of  the  Council  of  the 
Inquisition.  He  was  a  man  of  humble  exterior,  but  richly 
endowed  with  quiet,  diplomatic  tact,  of  invincible  strength 
of  will  and  above  all,  a  keen  judge  of  men.  He  had  already 
distinguished  himself  in  many  delicate  situations,  in  which 
he  had  always  managed  to  secure  exactly  the  outcome  desired 
by  his  royal  master.  He  was  one  of  the  ablest  and  most 
loyal  agents  that  ever  was  found  by  an  autocrat. 

When,  in  1545,  Charles  V  heard  of  the  overthrow  of  his 
governor,  Vasco  Nunez  Vela — the  news  of  his  defeat  and 
death  did  not  come  to  court  until  several  months  later — he 

TEE    CONQUEST    OF   PERU  247 

realized  the  impossibility  of  reducing  Peru  to  obedience  by 
an  armed  force  and  he  turned  to  de  la  Gasca.  Although 
past  the  prime  of  life,  the  priest  accepted  the  commission. 
He,  however,  stipulated  that  he  should  have  absolute 
authority  to  arrange  things  as  he  felt  best.  "For  myself," 
he  said,  "I  ask  neither  salary  nor  compensation  of  any 
kind.  I  want  no  pomp  of  state  nor  military  force.  I 
hope  to  do  the  work  intrusted  to  me  with  my  breviary  and 

Accompanied  by  Alonso  de  Alvarado,  an  officer  who  had 
served  under  Pizarro  and  who  knew  personally  most  of  the 
soldiers  of  Peru,  de  la  Gasca  set  out  from  Spain  on  the  26th 
of  May,  1546.  About  the  middle  of  July  he  arrived  off  the 
coast  of  the  Isthmus. 

Hernan  Mexia  had  been  put  in  command  of  Nombre  de 
Dios  by  Gonzalo  Pizarro  and  he  had  explicit  instructions 
not  to  allow  any  hostile  forces  from  Spain  to  land.  But  he 
had  no  orders  to  exclude  a  simple  priest.  The  politic  course 
of  this  master  diplomat,  while  on  the  Isthmus,  is  very  ably 
described  by  Prescott : 

"The  candid  and  conciliatory  language  of  the  president 
(delaCasca)  .  .  .  made  a  sensible  impression  on  Mexia. 
He  admitted  the  force  of  Gasca's  reasoning,  and  flattered 
himself  that  Gonzalo  Pizarro  would  not  be  insensible  to  it. 
Though  attached  to  the  fortunes  of  that  leader,  he  was  loyal 
in  heart,  and,  like  most  of  the  party,  had  been  led  by  accident, 
rather  than  by  design,  into  rebellion;  and  now  that  so  good 
an  opportunity  occurred  to  do  it  with  safety,  he  was  not 
unwilling  to  retrace  his  steps,  and  secure  the  royal  favor  by 
thus  early  returning  to  his  allegiance.  This  he  signified  to 
the  president,  assuring  him  of  his  hearty  cooperation  in  the 
good  work  of  reform. 

"This  was  an  important  step  for  Gasca.  It  was  yet  more 
important  for  him  to  secure  the  obedience  of  Hinojosa,  the 

248  PANAMA 

governor  of  Panama,  in  the  harbor  of  which  city  lay  Pizarro's 
navy,  consisting  of  two-and-twenty  vessels.  .  .  . 

"The  president  first  sent  Mexia  and  Alonso  de  Alvarado  to 
prepare  the  way  for  his  own  coming  by  advising  Hinojosa 
of  the  purport  of  his  mission.  He  soon  after  followed,  and 
was  received  by  that  commander  with  every  show  of  outward 
respect.  But  while  the  latter  listened  with  deference  to 
the  representations  of  Gasca,  they  failed  to  work  the  change 
in  him  which  they  had  wrought  in  Mexia.  .  .  . 

"Hinojosa  was  not  satisfied;  and  he  immediately  wrote  to 
Pizarro,  acquainting  him  with  Gasca's  arrival,  and  with  the 
object  of  his  mission,  .  .  .  But  before  the  departure 
of  the  ship,  Gasca  secured  the  services  of  a  Dominican  friar, 
who  had  taken  his  passage  on  board  for  one  of  the  towns  on 
the  coast.  This  man  he  intrusted  with  manifestos,  setting 
forth  the  purport  of  his  visit,  and  proclaiming  the  abolition 
of  the  ordinances,  with  a  free  pardon  to  all  who  returned 
to  their  obedience.  .  .  .  These  papers  the  Dominican  en- 
gaged to  distribute  himself,  among  the  principal  cities  of  the 
colony;  and  he  faithfully  kept  his  word,  though  as  it  proved 
at  no  little  hazard  of  his  life.  The  seeds  thus  scattered 
might,  many  of  them,  fall  on  barren  ground.  But  the  greater 
part,  the  president  trusted,  would  take  root  in  the  hearts  of 
the  people;  and  he  patiently  waited  for  the  harvest. 

"Meanwhile,  though  he  failed  to  remove  the  scruples  of 
Hinojosa,  the  courteous  manners  of  Gasca,  and  his  mild, 
persuasive  discourse,  had  a  visible  effect  on  other  individuals 
with  whom  he  had  daily  intercourse.  Several  of  these,  and 
among  them  some  of  the  principal  cavaliers  in  Panama,  as 
well  as  in  the  squadron,  expressed  their  willingness  to  join 
the  royal  cause,  and  aid  the  president  in  maintaining  it. 
.  .  .  He,  at  length,  also  prevailed  on  the  governor  of 
Panama  to  furnish  him  with  the  means  of  entering  into 
communication  with  Gonzalo  Pizarro  himself;  and  a  ship 


was  dispatched  to  Lima,  bearing  a  letter  from  Charles  the 
Fifth  addressed  to  that  chief,  with  an  epistle  also  from  Gasca. 

"The  emperor's  communication  was  couched  in  the  most 
condescending  and  even  conciliatory  terms. 

"Gasca's  own  letter  was  pitched  in  the  same  polite  key. 
He  remarked,  however,  that  the  exigencies  which  had 
hitherto  determined  Gonzalo's  line  of  conduct  existed  no 
longer.  All  that  had  been  asked  was  conceded.  There  was 
nothing  now  to  contend  for;  and  it  only  remained  for  Pizarro 
and  his  followers  to  show  their  loyalty  and  the  sincerity  of 
their  principles  by  obedience  to  the  crown.  Hitherto,  the 
president  said,  Pizarro  had  been  in  arms  against  the  viceroy; 
and  the  people  had  supported  him  as  against  a  common 
enemy.  If  he  prolonged  the  contest,  that  enemy  must  be 
his  sovereign.  In  such  a  struggle,  the  people  would  be  sure 
to  desert  him;  and  Gasca  conjured  him,  by  his  honor  as  a 
cavalier,  and  his  duty  as  a  loyal  vassal,  to  respect  the  royal 
authority,  and  not  rashly  provoke  a  contest  which  must 
prove  to  the  world  that  his  conduct  hitherto  had  been  dic- 
tated less  by  patriotic  motives  than  by  selfish  ambition.  .  . 

"Weeks  and  months  rolled  away,  while  the  president  still 
remained  at  Panama,  where,  indeed,  as  his  communica- 
tions were  jealously  cut  off  with  Peru,  he  might  be  said  to 
be  detained  as  a  sort  of  prisoner  of  state.  Meanwhile,  both 
he  and  Hinojosa  were  looking  with  anxiety  for  the  arrival 
of  some  messenger  from  Pizarro,  who  should  indicate  the 
manner  in  which  the  president's  mission  was  to  be  received 
by  that  chief.  The  governor  of  Panama  was  not  blind  to  the 
perilous  position  in  which  he  was  himself  placed,  nor  to  the 
madness  of  provoking  a  contest  with  the  Court  of  Castile. 
But  he  had  a  reluctance,  not  too  often  shared  by  the  cavaliers 
of  Peru,  to  abandon  the  fortunes  of  the  commander  who  had 
reposed  in  him  so  great  confidence.  Yet  he  trusted  that  this 
commander  would  embrace  the  opportunity  now  offered,  of 

250  PANAMA 

placing  himself  and  the  country  in  a  state  of  permanent 

"He  (Pizarro)  learned,  with  no  little  uneasiness,  from 
Hinojosa,  of  the  landing  of  President  Gasca,  and  the  purport 
of  his  mission.  But  his  discontent  was  mitigated,  when  he 
understood  that  the  new  envoy  had  come  without  military 
array,  without  any  of  the  ostentatious  trappings  of  office  to 
impose  on  the  minds  of  the  vulgar,  but  alone,  as  it  were,  in 
the  plain  garb  of  an  humble  missionary.  Pizarro  could  not 
discern,  that  under  this  modest  exterior  lay  a  moral  power, 
stronger  than  his  own  steel-clad  battalions,  which,  operating 
silently  on  public  opinion,  the  more  sure  that  it  was  silent, 
was  even  now  undermining  his  strength,  like  a  subterraneous 
channel  eating  away  the  foundations  of  some  stately  edifice, 
that  stands  secure  in  its  pride  of  place! 

"  But,  although  Gonzalo  Pizarro  could  not  foresee  this  re- 
sult, he  saw  enough  to  satisfy  him  that  it  would  be  safest  to 
exclude  the  president  from  Peru.  The  tidings  of  his  arrival, 
moreover,  quickened  his  former  purpose  of  sending  an  em- 
bassy to  Spain  to  vindicate  his  late  proceedings,  and  request 
the  royal  confirmation  of  his  authority.  The  person  placed  at 
the  head  of  this  mission  was  Lorenzo  de  Aldana.  .  .  . 

"Aldana,  fortified  with  his  dispatches,  sped  swiftly  on  his 
voyage  to  Panama.  Through  him  the  governor  learned  the 
actual  state  of  feeling  in  the  councils  of  Pizarro;  and  he 
listened  with  regret  to  the  envoy's  conviction,  that  no  terms 
would  be  admitted  by  that  chief  or  his  companions,  that 
did  not  confirm  him  in  the  possession  of  Peru. 

"Aldana  was  soon  admitted  to  an  audience  by  the  presi- 
dent. It  was  attended  with  very  different  results  from  what 
had  followed  from  the  conferences  with  Hinojosa;  for  Pizarro 's 
envoy  was  not  armed  by  nature  with  that  stubborn  panoply 
which  had  hitherto  made  the  other  proof  against  all  argu- 
ment. He  now  learned  with  surprise  the  nature  of  Gasca's 

THE    CONQUEST    OF   PEEU  251 

powers,  and  the  extent  of  the  royal  concessions  to  the  in- 
surgents. He  had  embarked  with  Gonzalo  Pizarro  on  a 
desperate  venture,  and  he  found  that  it  had  proved  successful. 
The  colony  had  nothing  more,  in  reason,  to  demand;  and, 
though  devoted  in  heart  to  his  leader,  he  did  not  feel  bound 
by  any  principle  of  honor  to  take  part  with  him,  solely  to 
gratify  his  ambition,  in  a  wild  contest  with  the  Crown  that 
must  end  in  inevitable  ruin.  He  consequently  abandoned 
his  mission  to  Castile,  *  .  .  and  announced  his  purpose  to 
accept  the  pardon  proffered  by  the  government,  and  support 
the  president  in  settling  the  affairs  of  Peru.  He  subsequently 
wrote,  it  should  be  added,  to  his  former  commander  in  Lima, 
stating  the  course  he  had  taken,  and  earnestly  recommending 
the  latter  to  follow  his  example. 

"The  influence  of  this  precedent  in  so  important  a  person 
as  Aldana,  aided,  doubtless,  by  the  conviction  that  no  change 
was  now  to  be  expected  in  Pizarro,  while  delay  would  be 
fatal  to  himself,  at  length  prevailed  over  Hinojosa's  scruples, 
and  he  intimated  to  Gasca  his  willingness  to  place  the  fleet 
under  his  command.  The  act  was  performed  with  great 
pomp  and  ceremony.  ...  On  the  19th  of  November, 
1546,  Hinojosa  and  his  captains  resigned  their  commissions 
into  the  hands  of  the  president.  They  next  took  the  oaths 
of  allegiance  to  Castile;  a  free  pardon  for  all  past  offences  was 
proclaimed  by  the  herald  from  the  scaffold  erected  in  the 
great  square  of  the  city;  and  the  president,  greeting  them  as 
true  and  loyal  vassals  of  the  Crown,  restored  their  several 
commissions  to  the  cavaliers.  The  royal  standard  of  Spain 
was  then  unfurled  on  board  the  squadron,  and  proclaimed 
that  the  stronghold  of  Pizarro's  power  had  passed  away  from 
him  forever." 

The  rest  was  easy.  The  fleet  sailed  down  to  Peru.  De 
la  Gasca,  by  the  same  arguments,  the  same  appeal  to  the 
inherent  loyalty  of  the  Spanish  cavaliers,  won  over  one  of 

252  PANAMA 

Pizarro's  allies  after  another.  When  the  time  was  ripe  and 
his  forces  strong  enough  he  laid  aside  his  conciliatory  manner 
and  took  the  field. 

On  the  8th  of  April,  1548,  the  Royalist  and  Rebel  armies 
met  at  Xaquixaguana.  Half  of  Pizarro's  men  threw  down 
their  arms  at  the  last  moment  and  went  over  to  de  la  Gasca. 
The  rest  were  utterly  defeated.  Within  a  few  days  Gonzalo 
Pizarro  and  his  principal  general,  Carbajal,  were  beheaded. 

Prescott  sums  up  the  character  of  de  la  Gasca  in  this 
paragraph : 

"In  the  long  procession  which  has  passed  in  review  before 
us,  we  have  seen  only  the  mail-clad  cavalier,  brandishing 
his  bloody  lance,  and  mounted  on  his  war-horse,  riding  over 
the  helpless  natives,  or  battling  with  his  own  friends  and 
brothers;  fierce,  arrogant,  and  cruel,  urged  on  by  the  lust  of 
gold,  or  the  scarce  more  honorable  love  of  a  bastard  glory. 
Mingled  with  these  qualities,  indeed,  we  have  seen  sparkles 
of  the  chivalrous  and  romantic  temper  which  belongs  to  the 
heroic  age  of  Spain.  But,  with  some  honorable  exceptions,  it 
was  the  scum  of  her  chivalry  that  resorted  to  Peru,  and  took 
service  under  the  banner  of  the  Pizarros.  At  the  close  of 
this  long  array  of  iron  warriors,  we  behold  the  poor  and 
humble  missionary  coming  into  the  land  on  an  errand  of 
mercy,  and  everywhere  proclaiming  the  glad  tidings  of  peace. 
The  means  he  employs  are  in  perfect  harmony  with  this  end. 
His  weapons  are  argument  and  mild  persuasion.  It  is  the 
reason  he  would  conquer,  not  the  body.  He  wins  his  way  by 
conviction,  not  by  violence." 



THE  Conquistadores,  despite  their  romantic  renown,  were 
villainous  desperadoes.  Bad  as  was  Pedrarias,  and  it  would 
be  hard  to  exaggerate  his  crimes,  his  brutalities  were  ex- 
ceeded by  his  successors.  The  daring  of  these  men,  which 
was  immense,  was  surpassed  by  their  cruelty.  Their  relig- 
ious devotion  in  no  way  interfered  with  their  vices.  The 
nardships  they  endured  without  flinching  were  tremendous, 
but  their  treachery  was  as  incredible.  They  were  engaged 
in  a  race  for  the  Palms  of  Infamy  and  the  finish  was  close. 

The  history  of  those  days  would  be  too  depressing  to 
study  if  it  were  not  illumined  by  the  noble  life  of  Don  Fray 
Bartholome*  de  Las  Casas. 

"His  career  affords  perhaps  a  solitary  instance  of  a  man, 
who,  being  neither  a  conqueror,  a  discoverer  nor  an  inventor, 
has,  by  the  pure  force  of  benevolence,  become  so  notable  a 
figure,  that  large  portions  of  history  cannot  be  written,  or 
at  least  cannot  be  understood,  without  the  narrative  of  his 
deeds.  ...  In  early  American  history  Las  Casas  is, 
undoubtedly,  the  principal  figure.  .  .  .  He  was  an  im- 
portant person  in  reference  to  all  that  concerned  the  Indies, 
during  the  reigns  of  Ferdinand  the  Catholic,  of  Philip  the 
Handsome,  of  his  son  Charles  the  Fifth,  and  of  Philip  the 
Second.  .  .  .  Take  away  all  he  said,  and  did,  and 
wrote,  and  preserved  (for  the  early  historians  of  the  New 
World  owe  the  records  of  many  of  their  most  notable  facts  to 
him),  and  the  history  of  the  conquest  would  lose  a  consider- 
able portion  of  its  most  precious  materials. 


254  PANAMA 

.  "It  may  be  fearlessly  asserted,  that  Las  Casas  had  a 
greater  number  of  bitter  enemies  than  any  man  who  lived 
in  his  time.  .  .  .  During  his  lifetime  there  was  always 
one  person  to  maintain  that  strict  justice  should  be  done  to 
the  Indians.  .  .  . 

"In  the  cause  of  the  Indians,  whether  he  upheld  it  in 
speech,  in  writing,  or  in  action,  he  appears  never  for  one 
moment  to  have  swerved  from  the  exact  path  of  equity. 
He  has  been  justly  called  'The  Great  Apostle  of  the  Indies.' " 

Las  Casas  was  in  the  City  of  Panama  in  February,  1532, 
and  probably  again  two  years  later.  But  even  if  he  had 
never  set  foot  on  the  Isthmus,  he  would,  as  Sir  Arthur  Helps 
states  in  the  above  quotation,  be  a  necessary  part  of  its 

Born  in  Seville  in  1474,  he  studied  theology  in  the  Uni- 
versity of  Salamanca  and  became  a  licentiate  at  eighteen. 
When  he  was  twenty-four  he  accompanied  Columbus  on  his 
third  voyage.  Two  years  after  his  return,  in  1502,  just 
before  the  Great  Admiral  set  sail  on  his  last  cruise,  Las 
Casas  went  out  to  Santo  Domingo  in  the  train  of  Nicolas 
de  Ovando,  who  had  been  appointed  governor  to  replace 

He  was  the  first  priest  ordained  in  the  Indies,  and  seems 
to  have  led  a  quiet  and  unobserved  life  until  he  was  thirty- 
six,  at  which  time  he  accompanied  the  expedition  of  Diego 
Velasquez  which  went  out  to  conquer  Cuba. 

The  Clerigo,  as  Las  Casas  always  calls  himself,  developed 
a  marked  talent  for  conciliating  the  natives.  One  tribe 
after  another  submitted  through  his  mediation,  without 
recourse  to  arms.  The  common  soldiers,  however,  viewed 
these  humane  measures  with  open  disgust.  Conquest 
without  plunder  was  not  to  the  liking  of  these  freebooters. 
In  the  village  of  Caonao,  where  many  natives  had  gathered 
to  treat  with  Las  Casas,  one  of  the  Spaniards  suddenly 

LAS   CAS  AS  255 

drew  his  sword  and  a  massacre  was  started  before  the 
Clerigo  could  interfere.  The  sight  of  the  dead  bodies, 
piled  "like  sheaves  of  corn,"  was,  Las  Casas  tells  us,  the 
thing  which  set  him  thinking. 

The  work  of  pacification  had  to  be  begun  over  again. 
With  infinite  patience  the  Clerigo  was  able  to  regain  the 
confidence  of  the  Indians.  But  it  was  of  course  impossible 
for  him  to  protect  them  against  the  brutality  of  his  coun- 
trymen. His  work  came  to  naught  so  far  as  the  benefit  of 
the  natives  was  concerned.  However,  as  it  is  much  easier 
to  massacre  natives  who  have  been  pacified  than  to  fight 
tribes  who  are  hostile,  the  officials  appreciated  the  Clerigo's 
activity  and  rewarded  him  with  a  "repartimiento"  near 

This  institution  became  so  large  an  issue  in  the  life  of 
Las  Casas,  that  a  few  words  of  explanation  are  necessary. 
After  the  conquest  of  a  territory  the  land  and  natives  were 
divided  by  the  governor  among  his  friends  by  deeds  of  gift 
called  "repartimientos,"  which  said  that  so  many  Indians, 
under  such  a  cacique,  had  been  given  to  such  a  person  to 
command  (encomienda)  and  which  always  ended  with  the 
phrase,  "and  you  are  to  teach  them  the  things  of  our  Holy 
Catholic  Faith."  Of  course  the  hardened  soldiers  of  the 
Conquest  very  rarely  allowed  this  final  clause  to  interfere 
with  the  work  of  gold  mining.  They  baptized  their  Indians 
and  made  slaves  of  them.  Las  Casas  accepted  his  reparti- 
miento without  question.  Indeed,  in  the  third  book  of  his 
"Historia  de  las  Indias,"  he  confesses  that  he  "took  no  more 
heed  than  the  other  Spaniards  to  bethink  himself  that  his 
Indians  were  unbelievers,  and  of  the  duty  that  there  was 
on  his  part  to  give  them  instruction,  and  to  bring  them  to 
the  bosom  of  the  Church  of  Christ." 

He  was  forty  years  old  when  the  light  came  to  him.  In 
the  year  1514,  while  preparing  a  sermon  for  the  feast  of 

256  PANAMA 

Pentecost,  he  came  across  the  thirty-fourth  chapter  of 
Ecclesiasticus.  He  especially  speaks  of  these  verses  as 
having  opened  his  eyes. 

"He  that  sacrificeth  of  a  thing  wrongfully  gotten,  his 
offering  is  ridiculous;  and  the  gifts  of  unjust  men  are  not 

"The  Most  High  is  not  pleased  with  the  offering  of  the 
wicked:  neither  is  he  pacified  for  sin  by  the  multitude  of 

"Whoso  bringeth  an  offering  of  the  goods  of  the  poor 
doeth  as  one  that  killeth  the  son  before  his  father's  eyes. 

"The  bread  of  the  needy  is  their  life;  he  that  defrauded 
him  thereof  is  a  man  of  blood. 

"He  that  taketh  away  his  neighbor's  living  slayeth  him; 
and  he  that  defraudeth  the  laborer  of  his  hire  is  a  blood- 

A  truer  "conversion"  has  never  been  recorded  in  history. 
Something  in  those  words,  which  he  had  probably  read  many 
times  before,  changed  the  worldly-minded  priest  into  an 
ardent  apostle.  Inevitably  one  compares  this  to  the  con- 
version of  Count  Tolstoi.  Any  social  organization  by  which 
some  live  idly  from  the  forced  work  of  others  is  in  conflict 
with  the  fundamental  ethics  of  the  Bible.  It  was  as  true 
four  centuries  ago  as  it  is  to-day.  Las  Casas  felt  the  system 
of  repartimientos  to  be  un-Christian,  and,  like  Tolstoi,  he 
decided  to  be  a  Christian. 

First  of  all,  it  was  necessary  for  him  to  surrender  his  own 
Indians.  Although  he  knew  that  they  would  be  given  to 
someone  else  who  would  work  them  to  death,  the  answer  to 
any  sermon  of  his  would  be  his  own  repartimiento.  So  he 
gave  them  up. 

Las  Casas  was  not  one  to  allow  rust  to  accumulate  on  his 
resolution.  Helps  describes  the  beginning  of  his  ministry 
as  follows: 

LAS   CASAS  257 

"When  preaching  on  the  day  of  'The  Assumption  of  Our 
Lady/  he  took  occasion  to  mention  publicly  the  conclusion 
he  had  come  to  as  regards  his  own  affairs,  and  also  to  urge 
upon  his  congregation  in  the  strongest  manner  his  convic- 
tion of  the  danger  to  their  souls  if  they  retained  their  reparti- 
mientos  of  Indians.  All  were  amazed;  some  were  struck 
with  compunction;  others  were  as  much  surprised  to  hear 
it  called  a  sin  to  make  use  of  the  Indians  as  if  they  had  been 
told  it  was  sinful  to  make  use  of  the  beasts  of  the  field. 

"After  Las  Casas  had  uttered  many  exhortations  both  in 
public  and  in  private,  and  had  found  that  they  were  of  little 
avail,  he  meditated  how  to  go  to  the  fountain-head  of  au- 
thority, the  King  of  Spain.  The  Clerigo's  resources  were  ex- 
hausted: he  had  not  a  maravedi,  or  the  means  of  getting  one, 
except  by  selling  a  mare  which  was  worth  a  hundred  pesos." 

The  Clerigo  was  assisted  by  Pedro  de  Renteria,  the  one 
friend  who  remained  true  to  him — in  the  face  of  his  sub- 
versive attacks  on  private  property.  At  Santo  Domingo, 
Las  Casas  was  hospitably  received  by  Pedro  de  Cordova, 
the  prelate  of  the  Dominicans  in  America.  This  order, 
which  we  most  often  think  of  as  the  fanatical  advocates  of 
the  Inquisition,  became  notable  in  the  New  World  for  their 
humane  interest  in  the  natives.  Father  de  Cordova,  know- 
ing the  ways  of  the  world  better  than  the  Clerigo,  could  give 
him  little  encouragement  of  relief  from  the  king,  but  he  gave 
him  his  blessing.  In  September,  1515,  accompanied  by  two 
Dominican  brothers,  Las  Casas  sailed  for  Spain. 

About  Christmas  time  the  Clerigo  arrived  at  Court  and 
was  received  by  the  old  king.  His  fervid  earnestness  made 
so  strong  an  impression  that  he  had  been  granted  another 
interview.  It  was  prevented  by  the  death  of  the  king. 
It  is  surprising  how  often  Las  Casas  won  over  some  power- 
ful ally  and  then,  just  when  things  looked  most  hopeful,  was 
defeated  by  death  and  forced  to  begin  all  over  again. 

258  PANAMA 

He  was  not  so  successful  in  his  effort  to  secure  the  favor 
of  the  powerful  Bishop  of  Burgos.  Of  this  prelate,  Helps 
writes : 

"The  Bishop  of  Burgos  was  one  of  those  ready,  bold, 
and  dexterous  men,  with  a  great  reputation  for  fidelity, 
who  are  such  favourites  with  princes.  He  went  through  so 
many  stages  of  preferment,  that  it  is  sometimes  difficult  to 
trace  him;  and  the  student  of  early  American  history  will 
have  a  bad  opinion  of  many  Spanish  bishops,  if  he  does  not 
discover  that  it  is  Bishop  Fonseca  who  reappears  under  vari- 
ous designations.  He  held  successively  the  Archdeaconate 
of  Seville,  the  Bishoprics  of  Badajoz,  Cordova,  Palencia, 
and  Conde,  the  Archbishopric  of  Rosano  (in  Italy),  with  the 
Bishopric  of  Burgos,  besides  the  office  of  Capellan  mayor  to 
Isabella,  and  afterwards  to  Ferdinand." 

His  interview  with  the  bishop  was  stormy.  Unable  to 
move  the  smug  courtier  by  his  eloquence,  he,  as  a  last  effort, 
told  him  how  seven  thousand  Indian  children  had  perished 
in  three  months. 

"How  does  all  this  concern  me  or  His  Majesty,  the 
King?"  the  cynical  Fonseca  asked. 

Las  Casas  told  him  that  all  these  infant  souls  would  rise 
up  against  him  on  the  Day  of  Judgment,  and  left  in  a 

The  king  died  in  January,  1516,  and  Las  Casas  imme- 
diately went  to  Madrid  to  lay  his  case  before  the  Cardinal 
Ximenes  and  the  Ambassador  Adrian,  who  had  been  ap- 
pointed regents  until  Charles  should  reach  his  majority. 
Luckily  for  the  Indians,  the  death  of  the  old  king  excluded 
the  ubiquitous  Fonseca  from  the  councils  for  a  time,  and 
the  Clerigo  was  able  to  obtain  an  unprejudiced  hearing  from 
the  regents.  Ximenes  seems  to  have  desired  to  rule  the 
colonies  wisely.  Shocked  by  the  stories  of  the  outrages 
committed  on  the  Indians,  which  the  Clerigo  told,  he  called 

LAS   CASAS  259 

a  Junta,  or  special  council,  to  consider  the  affairs  of  the 

An  incident  occurred  in  one  of  these  meetings  which  is 
typical  of  Las  Casas.  The  cardinal,  wanting  to  know  the 
existing  conditions,  ordered  a  secretary  to  read  the  laws 
which  had  been  drawn  up  by  the  preceding  council.  The  clerk 
happened  to  be  a  retainer  of  Fonseca,  and  when  he  came  to 
a  section  which  was  patently  unjust,  he  wilfully  misread  it  to 
shield  his  patron.  Las  Casas  knew  the  law  by  heart  and 
protested  that  the  clerk  was  wrong.  Ximenes  ordered  the 
man  to  reread  it.  He  repeated  his  distortion.  Las  Casas 
jumped  up  and  exclaimed,  "The  law  says  no  such  thing." 
The  cardinal  was  vexed  by  the  incident  and  told  Las  Casas 
not  to  interrupt.  But  the  man  was  not  born  who  could  still 
the  voice  of  the  Clerigo  when  he  thought  he  was  right. 

"Your  Lordship,  you  can  hang  me,  if  the  law  says  that!" 

One  of  the  councillors  took  the  law  and  read  it.  Las 
Casas  was  right. 

"You  can  imagine,"  he  writes,  "that  the  clerk  (whose 
name,  for  his  honor's  sake,  I  will  not  give)  wished  that  he 
had  never  been  born."  And  he  adds,  "the  Clerigo  lost 
nothing  of  the  regard  in  which  the  Cardinal  held  him  nor 
in  the  credit  which  he  put  in  his  word." 

The  Junta  drew  up  a  code  of  laws  for  the  Indies,  prac- 
tically at  the  dictation  of  Las  Casas.  This  in  itself  was  a 
remarkable  result  to  be  accomplished  by  an  unknown  col- 
onial priest,  who  had  no  aristocratic  prestige,  little  learning 
and  no  friends  but  those  he  could  win  by  his  own  fervor. 
But  while  the  framing  of  good  laws  is  easy  under  an  auto- 
cratic government,  where  the  reformer  has  to  convince  only 
a  small  group,  the  enforcement  of  good  laws  is  very  difficult 
to  achieve.  In  this  case  the  administration  was  intrusted 
to  four  fathers  of  the  Jeronimite  Order,  who  were  sent 
out  to  Santo  Domingo  with  full  powers. 

260  PANAMA 

This  code  was  long  and  complicated;  the  gist  of  it  was  the 
abolition  of  slavery.  It  did  not  go  as  far  in  that  direction 
as  the  Clerigo  wished,  but  it  was  a  long  step  forward.  Natu- 
rally it  encountered  opposition.  It  attacked  the  pocket- 
books  of  many  of  "the  best  people"  of  the  day.  When  the 
"colonial  lobby"  at  Madrid  found  that  they  could  not  reach 
the  Cardinal  Ximenes,  they  turned  their  attention  to  the 
Jeronimite  fathers.  Las  Casas  boldly  asserts  that  the 
"interests"  succeeded  in  fixing  them. 

Certain  it  is  that  the  good  fathers  proceeded  very  cau- 
tiously in  the  enforcement  of  the  laws.  They  arrived  in 
Santo  Domingo  in  December,  1516.  Whether  or  not  they 
were  actually  bribed  it  is  impossible  to  determine.  They 
were  men  of  peace.  If  they  had  been  of  one  of  the  sterner 
and  more  militant  orders  they  might  have  done  their  duty. 
As  yet  the  conquests  had  not  been  broad  enough  to  firmly 
establish  the  system  of  repartimientos.  It  might  have  been 
stamped  out  on  the  islands  before  it  gained  a  foothold  on 
the  continent.  But  brought  up  in  the  seclusion  of  their 
cloisters,  disciplined  in  humility,  accustomed  to  bow  down 
before  the  mighty,  these  fathers  proved  unequal  to  their 
great  task.  They  made  friends  with  the  mammon  of  un- 

Las  Casas,  who  had  been  given  the  title  of  "Protector  of 
the  Indians,"  but  no  powers,  arrived  in  Santo  Domingo 
shortly  after  them.  He,  of  course,  was  outraged  at  their 
ineffectiveness.  In  order  to  force  them  to  action,  he 
brought  an  impeachment  against  the  judges  of  the  colony, 
who  were  among  the  worst  offenders.  He  called  it  "una 
terrible  acusacion."  What  the  outcome  of  this  proceeding 
was  we  do  not  know.  But  it  forever  branded  Las  Casas  as 
a  "disturber  of  the  peace."  The  Jeronomite  fathers  said 
he  was  a  torch  which  threatened  to  set  everything  afire. 
He  had  definitely  placed  himself  with  the  "muck-rakers" 

LAS   CA8A8  261 

and  "undesirable  citizens."  Hopeless  of  accomplishing  any- 
thing in  Santo  Domingo,  he  returned  to  Spain  in  May,  1517 
— only  to  find  his  good  friend  the  Cardinal  Ximenes  at  the 
point  of  death. 

The  government,  for  Charles  V  was  still  a  minor,  now  fell 
into  the  hands  of  two  Flemish  nobles,  William,  Lord  of 
Chieves  and  Jean  Salvage,  whom  the  Spaniards  called 
Selvagius.  These  ministers,  although  accused  of  taking 
small  interest  in  Spanish  affairs,  the  poorest  province  of  all 
the  vast  domains  of  the  Spanish  crown,  gave  considerable 
attention  to  colonial  matters.  Las  Casas  received  a  hear- 
ing. As  usual,  his  ardent  eloquence  won  their  respect.  The 
Chancellor,  Selvagius,  took  up  the  matter  with  the  young 
king  and  received  authority  to  draw  up  more  laws. 

The  Clerigo  was  a  man  who  was  always  learning.  He  had 
come  to  realize  that  there  was  an  imperative  need  for  laborers 
in  the  colony.  No  laws  could  alter  that.  Either  the  colo- 
nies must  be  abandoned  or  laborers  found  for  the  mines,  the 
fields  and  for  transportation.  The  only  way  to  get  work  out 
of  the  nomadic  Indians  was  to  enslave  them.  If  he  wished 
to  rescue  them  it  was  necessary  to  find  other  labor. 

With  this  idea  in  mind  he  drew  up  an  elaborate  scheme 
for  the  chancellor.  The  main  feature  was  the  stimulation 
of  peasant  immigration  from  Spain.  So  far  the  colonists  were 
of  three  classes,  gentlemen  adventurers,  mercenary  soldiers 
and  common  sailors.  None  of  them  furnished  a  reliable 
labor  force.  Every  year  famine  killed  hundreds  of  peasants 
in  Spain.  It  was  an  ambitious  emigration  scheme — they 
were  to  be  transported  free,  given  fields  and  tools;  but  the 
wealth  flowing  into  the  royal  treasury  from  the  colonies 
certainly  warranted  the  expense. 

But  Las  Casas  was  always  unexpectedly  running  up  against 
"  vested  interests."  He  looked  directly  to  his  goal  of  justice 
and  was  always  surprised  to  find  that  " property  rights"  stood 

262  PANAMA 

above  "human  rights."  That  the  whole  feudal  aristocracy  of 
Spain  would  rise  as  a  body  in  indignation  against  a  scheme 
which  offered  their  starving  serfs  a  chance  to  escape  from  vil- 
lainage never  occurred  to  him.  The  peasants  were  eager  to  go. 
In  one  village  of  two  hundred  souls,  Berlanga,  seventy  applied 
for  permission.  Many  of  them  gave  as  their  reason  their 
desire  to  escape  from  the  seignors  and  bring  up  their  children 
"in  a  free  land  under  royal  jurisdiction."  The  outcry  of  the 
nobility  against  this  incendiary  priest  was  so  great  that  the 
scheme  fell  through. 

The  Bishop  Fonseca  had  again  come  into  power  after  the 
death  of  Ximenes.  He  was  only  too  glad  to  grasp  this  oppor- 
tunity to  thwart  his  old  enemy,  Las  Casas. 

Among  other  recommendations  in  the  Clerigo's  project  to 
relieve  the  Indians  was  one  which  has  been  often  cited 
against  him  by  his  enemies.  He  advocated  the  importation 
of  negro  slaves.  This  was  certainly  borrowing  from  Peter 
on  behalf  of  Paul.  It  is  well  to  remember,  as  mitigating 
circumstances,  that  negro  slavery  existed  in  these  United 
States  up  to  fifty  years  ago.  Four  centuries  ago  no  voice 
had  been  raised  against  it.  While  Las  Casas  had  with  his 
own  eyes  seen  the  horrors  of  the  enforced  mine  labors  of  the 
Indians,  the  brutality  of  their  conquerors,  their  speedy 
death,  most  of  the  negro  slaves  he  had  seen  were  body  or 
house  servants.  The  suggestion  did  not  originate  with  him. 
His  recommendation  was  rather  to  regulate  the  slave-trade, 
than,  as  is  often  asserted,  to  create  it. 

The  surprising  thing  is  not  that  he  proposed  this  measure, 
which  does  not  seem  to  have  shocked  any  of  his  contempo- 
aries,  but  that  he  repented  of  it.  Years  afterwards  he 
wrote:  "This  advice,  that  license  should  be  given  to  bring 
negro  slaves  to  these  lands,  the  Clerigo  Casas  first  gave,  not 
considering  the  injustice  with  which  the  Portuguese  take 
them,  and  make  them  slaves;  which  advice,  after  he  had 

LAS   CAS  AS  263 

apprehended  the  nature  of  the  thing,  he  would  not  have 
given  for  all  he  had  in  the  world.  For  he  always  held  that 
they  had  been  made  slaves  unjustly  and  tyrannically;  for 
the  same  reason  holds  good  of  them  as  of  the  Indians." 

Of  all  the  proposals  of  his  elaborate  programme  of  reform, 
most  of  which  was  farsighted  and  wise,  only  the  one  which 
was  utterly  bad  was  accepted. 

Absolutely  defeated  in  all  his  efforts  by  the  influence  of 
greed,  Las  Casas  tried  to  think  out  some  remedy  which, 
while  benefiting  the  Indians,  would  at  the  same  time  be 
attractive  to  the  mercenary  people  who  possessed  the  powers 
of  government.  His  scheme  took  the  form  of  a  plan  of 
colonization.  He  wanted  to  create  a  lay  order  of  Christian 
Knights  who  would  be  willing  to  settle  some  portion  of  the 
mainland  and  while  primarily  interested  in  bringing  the 
natives  to  Christianity  would  also  be  able  to  guarantee  an 
attractive  income  to  the  Crown.  He  thought  it  would  be 
possible  to  make  a  missionary  crusade  produce  dividends. 

His  project,  noble  in  its  conception  and  compounded  with 
considerable  common-sense,  seems  bizarre  and  unpractical  as 
we  read  of  it  to-day.  But  it  was  a  bizarre  age.  It  excited 
a  great  deal  of  violent  discussion.  Among  others  who  ap- 
proved of  it  were  the  new  Premier,  Gattinara,  an  intensely 
practical  and  worldly  man,  and  Pedro  de  C6rdova,  the 
Dominican  prelate  of  Santo  Domingo,  than  whom  no  more 
spiritually  minded  churchman  ever  came  to  America.  How- 
ever, anything  suggested  by  Las  Casas  was  sure  to  be  at- 
tacked. The  Clerigo  seems  to  have  ignored  the  ribald 
jokes  with  dignity.  But  in  his  history  he  tells  of  one 
criticism  which  seems  to  have  wounded  him  deeply.  The 
licentiate  Aguirre,  a  man  renowned  for  his  godliness,  who 
had  always  been  an  able  supporter  of  Las  Casas,  was  shocked 
when  he  heard  of  all  these  business  negotiations,  and  said, 
Las  Casas  tells  us,  "that  such  a  manner  of  preaching  the 

264  PANAMA 

Gospels  grieved  him  deeply,  for  it  showed  an  interest  in 
temporal  affairs,  which  he  had  not  before  suspected  in  the 
Clerigo."  Helps  gives  an  almost  literal  translation  of  the 
incident  as  recorded  by  Las  Casas: 

"Las  Casas,  having  heard  what  Aguirre  had  said,  took 
occasion  to  speak  to  him  one  day  in  the  following  terms: 
'  Sefior,  if  you  were  to  see  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  maltreated, 
vituperated,  and  afflicted,  would  you  not  implore  with  all 
your  might  that  those  who  had  him  in  their  power  would 
give  him  to  you,  that  you  might  serve  and  worship  him?' 
'Yes,'  said  Aguirre.  'Then,'  replied  Las  Casas,  'if  they 
would  not  give  him  to  you,  but  would  sell  him,  would  you 
redeem  him?'  'Without  a  doubt.'  'Well,  then,  Sefior,' 
rejoined  Las  Casas,  'that  is  what  I  have  done,  for  I  have 
left  in  the  Indies  Jesus  Christ,  our  Lord,  suffering  stripes, 
and  afflictions,  and  crucifixion,  not  once  but  thousands  of 
times,  at  the  hands  of  the  Spaniards,  who  destroy  and  deso- 
late those  Indian  nations,  taking  from  them  the  opportunity 
of  conversion  and  penitence,  so  that  they  die  without  faith 
and  without  sacraments." 

"Then  Las  Casas  went  on  to  explain  how  he  had  sought  to 
remedy  these  things  in  the  way  that  Aguirre  would  most  have 
approved.  To  this  the  answer  had  been,  that  the  King 
would  have  no  rents,  wherefore,  when  he,  Las  Casas,  saw 
that  his  opponents  would  sell  him  the  gospel,  he  had  offered 
those  temporal  inducements  which  Aguirre  had  heard  of 
and  disapproved. 

"The  licentiate  considered  this  a  sufficient  answer,  and 
so,  I  think,  would  any  reasonable  man." 

In  this,  as  in  every  project  of  the  Clerigo's,  the  Bishop 
Fonseca  was  an  active  opponent.  The  plan  might  never 
have  been  approved  of  were  it  not  that  the  news  of  many 
recent  scandals  came  to  court  at  this  time.  A  letter  came 
from  Fray  Francisco  de  Sant  Roman,  a  monk  in  Panama, 

LAS   CASA8  265 

telling  of  the  infamous  raid  of  Pedrarias's  Alcalde,  Espinosa, 
in  which  40,000  Indians  had  been  killed. 

Oviedo,  the  historian  who  had  gone  out  to  Castilla  del 
Oro  with  Pedrarias,  had  returned  to  court  and  was  pro- 
testing against  the  crimes  of  that  governor.  Not  long  after- 
wards, Quevedo,  the  Bishop  of  Darien,  arrived  with  fresh 

Las  Casas,  who  like  his  Master  had  an  especial  talent  for 
baiting  the  Pharisees,  soon  came  to  an  argument  with  this 
oily  prelate.  Words  ran  high,  and  the  Clerigo,  who  was  by 
no  means  afraid  of  a  bishop,  brought  the  quarrel  to  a  close 
by  saying  that  unless  Quevedo  returned  all  the  money  he 
had  wrung  from  his  flock  he  had  less  chance  of  salvation 
than  Judas  Iscariot. 

The  king,  hearing  of  this  tilt,  and  dearly  loving  the  scho- 
lastic disputations  of  the  day,  wherein  the  subtlest  argu- 
ments joined  hands  with  the  crudest  invectives,  summoned 
them  both  before  him  to  have  it  out.  The  bishop  spoke 
first,  and  among  other  things  said  that  five  years  in  the 
colonies  had  convinced  him  that  the  Indians  were  by  nature 

The  Clerigo's  speech  is  too  long  to  reproduce,  and  the 
style  of  oratory  then  in  vogue  is  no  longer  fashionable. 
But  Las  Casas  had  that  rare  gift  of  eloquence,  shared  by 
such  men  as  Savonarola,  which  can  for  a  time  lift  the  most 
worldly  man  to  an  appreciation  of  spiritual  values.  He 
completely  won  his  hearers. 

When  he  finished,  a  Franciscan  father,  who  had  just  re- 
turned from  the  Indies,  spoke. 

"My  lord,"  he  said,  "I  have  been  certain  years  in  the 
island  of  Hispaniola,  and  I  was  commanded  with  others  to 
go  and  visit  and  take  the  number  of  Indians  in  the  island, 
and  we  found  that  they  were  so  many  thousand.  After- 
wards, at  the  end  of  two  years,  a  similar  charge  was  again 

266  PANAMA 

given  to  me,  and  we  found  that  there  had  perished  so  many 
thousands.  And  thus  the  infinity  of  people  who  were  in 
that  island  has  been  destroyed.  Now,  if  the  blood  of  one 
person  unjustly  put  to  death  was  of  such  effect  that  it  was 
not  removed  out  of  the  sight  of  God  until  he  had  taken  ven- 
geance for  it,  and  the  blood  of  the  others  never  ceases  to 
exclaim  Vindica  sanguinem  nostrum,  Deus  noster,  what  will 
the  blood  do  of  such  innumerable  people  as  have  perished  in 
those  lands  under  such  great  tyranny  and  injustice?  Then, 
by  the  blood  of  Jesus  Christ  and  by  the  wounds  of  St. 
Francis,  I  pray  and  entreat  Your  Majesty  that  you  would 
find  a  remedy  for  such  wickedness  and  such  destruction  of 
people,  as  perish  daily  there,  so  that  the  divine  justice  may 
not  pour  out  its  severe  indignation  upon  all  of  us." 

It  was  a  short  speech,  but  so  fervent  and  impressive  that 
Las  Casas  says  that  it  seemed  to  all  present  as  if  they  were 
listening  to  words  from  the  Day  of  Judgment. 

The  king  was  deeply  touched  and  ordered  the  Council  of 
the  Indies  to  do  all  in  their  power  to  further  the  project  of 
Las  Casas.  The  necessary  decrees  received  the  royal  signa- 
ture on  the  19th  of  May,  1520.  Very  shortly  Las  Casas 
sailed  to  Santo  Domingo,  where  he  hoped  to  recruit  the 
knights  for  his  crusade.  But  when  he  touched  at  Porto 
Rico,  en  route,  he  found  that  once  more  his  hopes  were 
shattered.  War  had  broken  out  on  the  coast  of  Venezuela, 
the  very  territory  which  had  been  assigned  to  him.  Arrived 
in  Santo  Domingo,  his  old  enemies  again  attacked  him.  This 
time  they  declared  that  his  ship  was  unseaworthy  and  kept 
him  a  practical  prisoner  until  the  slaves,  which  the  expedition 
into  his  territory  were  capturing,  began  to  appear  in  the 
market  of  Santo  Domingo.  Then,  when  it  was  too  late  for 
any  chance  of  success  for  his  scheme  of  friendly  coloniza- 
tion, they  let  him  go.  He  arrived  at  Cumana  at  last  to 
find  the  country  round  about  devastated. 

LAS   CASAS  267 

Broken  in  spirit,  he  returned  to  Santo  Domingo  and 
entered  the  Dominican  Monastery  in  1522.  He  was  forty- 
eight  years  old  when  he  became  a  monk.  His  retirement 
from  the  world  seemed  a  surrender  and  there  was  joy  in  the 
camp  of  his  enemies. 

We  know  very  little  of  his  life  during  these  years  of  seclu- 
sion. It  is  probable  that  he  began  work  on  his  great  "His- 
toria  de  las  Indias."  Certainly  he  spent  much  time  in 
study,  for  when  after  eight  years  he  emerged  from  his  retreat 
he  was  a  learned  man.  Too  learned,  anyone  is  apt  to  say, 
who  reads  his  writings,  for  they  are  cluttered  up  with  endless 
quotations  from  the  Classics  and  from  the  Church  Fathers. 
But  barren  as  this  scholastic  philosophy  seems  to  us  to-day, 
it  was  the  dominant  mode  of  thought  in  his  age.  In  the 
famous  controversies  of  his  old  age  his  intimate  knowl- 
edge of  the  works  of  St.  Thomas  Aquinas  was  an  im- 
mensely powerful  weapon. 

Sir  Arthur  Helps  calls  attention  to  one  significant  fact. 
It  is  the  only  thing  we  know  with  certainty  about  his  years 
in  the  monastery.  He  was  not  allowed  to  preach.  Even 
the  Dominicans,  the  most  fearless  and  the  most  friendly  to 
the  Indians  of  all  the  orders  in  America,  did  not  dare  to  let 
this  firebrand  occupy  their  pulpit. 

During  these  eight  years  great  things  happened  outside 
the  cloister  walls.  Cortes  completed  his  conquest  of  Mex- 
ico. Pedrarias  and  his  captains  overran  Nicaragua.  Alva- 
rado  subdued  Guatemala.  Pizarro  had  embarked  on  his 
Peruvian  enterprise. 

After  eight  years  of  seclusion,  Father  Las  Casas  suddenly 
reappeared  in  Court.  Once  more  on  behalf  of  the  Indians, 
— this  time  in  an  effort  to  save  the  Indians  of  Peru.  But 
he  reached  Spain  in  1530,  just  after  Pizarro  had  sailed  back 
to  the  Isthmus.  He  secured  the  passage  of  some  protective 
laws  and  returned  to  Santo  Domingo,  where  two  friars 

268  PANAMA 

joined  him  in  his  effort  to  overtake  Pizarro  and  restrain  his 
cruelty.  They  went  by  way  of  Mexico  to  settle  some  dis- 
putes in  the  Dominican  Chapter  there,  and  then  overland 
to  Puerto  Realejo  on  the  Pacific,  where  they  found  a  ship 
sailing  for  Peru. 

The  Clerigo  gives  very  little  information  about  this  jour- 
ney. I  have  been  unable  to  find  any  record  of  the  dates. 
But  it  seems  to  have  been  fruitless.  Probably  the  Con- 
quistadores  were  in  the  interior  beyond  their  reach.  The 
monks  returned  and  stopped  a  few  days  in  Panama  City  in 
February,  1532. 

Las  Casas  and  his  two  companions  then  went  to  Leon  in 
Nicaragua  and  founded  a  monastery.  Here  he  spent  two 
years  in  peaceful  missionary  work  among  the  natives.  He 
again  set  out  for  Peru,  but  his  ship  was  driven  back  by 
storms  and  he  changed  his  plan,  going  again  to  Spain  to 
plead  his  cause  in  Court. 

Returning  to  his  monastery  in  Nicaragua,  he  found 
troubles  nearer  at  hand  which  needed  his  righting.  The 
new  governor,  Rodrigo  de  Contreras,  was  beginning  his  mur- 
derous career.  By  his  vehement  opposition  Las  Casas  was 
able  to  prevent  a  slave-stealing  raid.  That  he  had  good 
reason  to  oppose  the  governor  no  one  who  reads  his  treatise, 
"Brevissima  Relacion  de  la  Destruycion  de  las  Indias," 
can  doubt.  He  cites  one  instance  when,  of  a  body  of  4,000 
Indians  impressed  as  carriers  in  a  Nicaraguan  expedition, 
only  six  of  them  returned  alive.  The  slaves  were  chained 
together  by  means  of  collars  about  their  necks.  When  one 
of  them  gave  out  and  could  march  no  farther,  the  slave- 
drivers  would  cut  off  his  head  and  so,  releasing  the  chain, 
allow  the  gang  to  go  on  without  loss  of  time.  "  Imagine," 
he  writes,  "what  the  others  must  have  felt." 

The  hostility  of  the  bandit  Contreras  at  last  drove  him 
out  of  Nicaragua  and  he  went  to  Guatemala,  where  together 

LAS   CASAS  269 

with  three  brothers,  Luis  Cancer,  Pedro  de  Angulo  and 
Rodrigo  de  Ladrada,  their  names  deserve  mention  for  they 
were  as  noble  a  group  of  missionaries  as  the  Church  has  ever 
produced,  he  founded  a  monastery.  They  were  fortunate 
in  finding  in  the  Bishop  of  Guatemala  a  man  worthy  to  be 
their  comrade.  A  man  of  great  scholarship  in  the  classics, 
he  had  humbled  himself  to  master  the  Utlatecan  language 
of  the  natives.  Las  Casas  and  his  monks  sat  at  his  feet  and 
also  learned  the  language.  "It  was  a  delight,"  an  old 
chronicler  comments,  "to  see  the  bishop,  as  a  master  of 
declensions  and  conjugations  in  the  Indian  tongue,  teaching 
the  good  fathers  of  St.  Dominic."  In  a  preface  to  a  tract 
which  the  bishop  wrote  in  the  native  tongue,  he  says  that 
perhaps  some  people  may  think  that  it  is  below  the  dignity 
of  a  prelate  to  occupy  himself  with  such  matters  "solely 
fitted  for  the  teaching  of  children,"  but  he  adds,  "if  the 
matter  be  well  considered,  it  will  be  seen  that  it  is  baser 
not  to  occupy  oneself  with  such  seeming  trifles,  for  such 
teaching  is  the  very  marrow  of  our  Holy  Faith." 

Some  time  previous  to  this,  Las  Casas  had  written  a 
paper  called  "De  unico  vocationis  modo."  Although  it  was 
not  printed,  it  was  translated  from  the  Latin  into  Spanish 
and  had  a  wide  circulation  among  the  colonists.  In  it  the 
Clerigo  developed  two  propositions.  The  first  was  that 
men  must  be  brought  to  Christ  by  persuasion  and  not  by 
force.  The  second  was  that  war  against  the  infidel  was  not 
justified  unless  some  specific  injury  had  been  sustained. 
These  do  not  seem  very  radical  conclusions  to-day,  but  they 
made  a  sensation  when  written.  It  is  in  fact  remarkable 
that  the  first  proposition  did  not  involve  Las  Casas  with  the 
Inquisition.  The  second  more  nearly  concerned  the  mass 
of  the  colonists.  The  Indian  slaves  died  with  discour- 
aging rapidity.  The  only  way  to  keep  up  the  labor  sup- 
ply was  by  incessant  conflicts  with  the  native  tribes, 

270  PANAMA 

which  were  generally  justified  as  wars  against  the  unbe- 

The  Conquistadores  were  not  only  angry  at  these  doc- 
trines of  Las  Casas,  they  made  sport  of  them.  "Try  it," 
they  taunted.  "Try  with  words  only  and  without  force  to 
bring  the  Indians  into  the  Church."  Las  Casas  was  only 
too  glad  to  accept  the  challenge  of  these  practical  men  who 
said  he  was  a  dreamer. 

The  nearby  province  of  Tuzulutan  was  called  by  the 
Spaniards  "Tierra  Guerra"—The  Land  of  War.  Three 
different  expeditions  which  had  set  out  to  subdue  this  terri- 
tory had  returned  defeated — as  the  historian  Remesal  says, 
"Las  manos  en  la  cabe<;a" — holding  their  heads  in  their 

The  Clerigo  entered  into  a  formal  contract  with  the  acting 
governor,  Alonzo  Maldonado — it  was  signed  the  2nd  of 
May,  1537 — by  which  he  undertook  to  proselyte  this  Tierra 
Guerra.  If  he  succeeded  in  pacifying  these  tribes,  who,  as 
they  had  resisted  conquest,  were  said  by  the  Spaniards  to 
be  in  revolt,  and  in  persuading  them  to  recognize  the  sover- 
eignty of  the  King  of  Spain,  the  government  pledged  itself 
to  make  the  territory  a  direct  appendage  of  the  Crown,  not 
to  give  any  repartimientos  to  private  persons,  and  not  to 
allow  any  layman  to  enter  the  district  for  five  years. 

One  can  "easily  imagine" — to  use  a  favorite  phrase  of  the 
Clerigo — the  guffaws  of  derisive  laughter  with  which  the 
soldiers  heard  of  this  compact.  The  four  Dominican  monks 
were  to  attempt  the  work  which  had  defeated  three  armies. 
Well — at  last  they  would  be  rid  of  this  trouble-maker,  Las 

For  several  days  the  Dominicans  retired  to  their  cells  for 
severe  fasting,  mortifications  and  prayers.  And  then,  hav- 
ing consecrated  themselves,  they  set  to  work.  Their  project 
seemed  even  more  fantastic  than  those  of  the  Clerigo  which 



LAS   CAS AS  271 

had  already  failed.  They  composed  a  long  ballad  in  the 
Utlatecan  language,  which,  beginning  with  the  Hebrew  story 
of  the  Creation  and  Fall,  contained  all  the  Bible  narratives 
and  the  principal  dogmas  of  the  Church.  Unfortunately 
this  remarkable  literary  work  has  been  lost.  While  some  of 
the  monks  labored  at  versifying  the  Scheme  of  Salvation  in 
this  unfamiliar  tongue,  others  set  it  to  music  so  that  it 
might  be  accompanied  on  the  crude  instruments  with  which 
the  natives  were  familiar.  Undoubtedly  they  worked  in 
many  of  the  accepted  melodies  of  Spain,  but  they  strove  to 
follow  as  nearly  as  possible  the  form  of  chant  which  the  In- 
dians had  developed.  To  realize  the  proportions  of  the  task 
we  must  think  of  some  such  unfamiliar  language  and  theory 
of  music  as  that  of  China  or  Egypt.  The  missionaries  had 
been  only  a  few  years  in  Guatemala;  they  were  old  men 
when  they  came,  yet  so  diligent  had  been  their  application 
that  they  were  able  to  compose  poetry  and  music  acceptable 
to  the  natives! 

Having  finished  this  part  of  their  undertaking,  they 
secured  the  services  of  four  native  peddlers  who  were  in  the 
habit  of  making  annual  trips  into  the  Tierra  Guerra.  With 
infinite  care  the  monks  taught  them  the  words  and  music. 
They  were  rehearsed  and  rehearsed — it  must  be  remembered 
that  all  this  was  done  by  word  of  mouth,  for  the  merchants 
were  illiterate — until  they  were  letter  perfect. 

The  most  amazing  thing  about  it  all  is  that  the  work, 
both  the  composition  and  teaching,  was  completed  in  three 
months!  By  the  middle  of  August  the  peddlers  were  ready 
to  start.  Las  Casas,  who  combined  a  knowledge  of  worldly 
motives  with  his  intense  spirituality,  had  seen  to  it  that 
besides  their  missionary  poem,  they  were  loaded  down  with 
more  attractive  packs  of  goods  than  any  native  merchant 
had  ever  carried  before. 

After  their  emissaries  had  departed,  the  four  monks,  by 

272  PANAMA 

means  of  relays,  kept  up  almost  continual  prayer  for  the 
success  of  the  venture.  As  far  as  the  limited  means  of 
communication  permitted  they  had  notified  all  their  brothers 
of  their  momentous  undertaking.  All  throughout  the  Indias 
the  Dominican  Order  was  uniting  in  fervent  prayer  for  its 

And  it  did  succeed. 

The  peddlers  arrived  safely  at  the  village  of  the  cacique  and 
during  the  first  day  drove  a  thriving  trade  with  their  Spanish 
knives  and  hatchets  and  beads.  At  night,  before  the  camp- 
fire,  where,  as  is  always  the  custom  among  savage  people, 
the  strangers  were  expected  to  entertain  their  hosts  with 
song  or  story,  they  asked  for  instruments  and  chanted  the 
wonderful  story  of  the  Christ.  The  strange  music — on  the 
whole  like  their  own,  but  sometimes  breaking  out  into  an 
unfamiliar  melody — attracted  the  villagers.  They  sat  in- 
tent, until  the  poem  was  finished. 

For  seven  days  they  stayed  in  the  village  and  every  night 
were  invited  to  repeat  their  bizarre  sermon.  The  cacique 
was  deeply  interested  and  asked  many  questions  about  the 
strange  poem.  The  peddlers,  being  ignorant  men,  said  they 
knew  nothing  except  what  they  had  heard.  The  poem 
had  come  to  them  from  certain  Spaniards,  who  were  different 
from  all  others — whose  heads  were  shaven,  who  wore  strange 
robes  of  black  and  white,  who  ate  no  meat,  had  no  desire  for 
gold  and  who  lived  a  life  of  abstinence.  Who,  instead  of 
rioting  with  women  and  wine,  spent  their  days  and  nights 
singing  praises  to  the  God  of  this  poem,  and  whose  only  in- 
terest was  to  teach  their  faith  to  all  men. 

The  upshot  of  it  was  that  the  cacique  sent  his  brother 
back  with  the  peddlers  to  see  if  such  strange  things  could  be 
true.  Above  all  he  told  his  envoy  to  watch  these  padres 
and  see  if  they  fought  for  gold  and  silver  like  the  other 
Spaniards  and  had  slave  women  in  their  houses. 

LAS   CASAS  273 

"It  can  easily  be  imagined,"  Las  Casas  writes,  "with  what 
joy  the  monks  of  St.  Dominic  received  this  savage  ambas- 
sador." So  favorable  an  impression  did  their  piety  make 
on  him  that  he  asked  one  of  them  to  return  with  him  to 
preach  to  his  brother  the  cacique  and  the  people.  Father 
Luis  Cancer  was  chosen  for  this  mission. 

There  is  no  space  here  to  trace  all  the  steps  by  which  these 
four  monks,  from  this  beginning,  converted  the  natives  of 
"The  Land  of  War."  Having  brought  peace  and  prosperity 
to  Tuzulutlan,  they  learned  other  native  languages  and 
gradually  extended  their  sway  to  the  neighboring  tribes. 

In  this  little  corner  of  Guatemala,  alone  in  all  the  vast 
Spanish  colonies,  the  Indians  learned  to  think  of  the  word 
" Christian"  as  meaning  something  different  from  "Devil." 

While  Las  Casas  was  in  "The  Land  of  War,"  teaching  its 
people  of  the  Prince  of  Peace  and  instructing  them  in  the 
ways  of.  material  prosperity,  unexpected  aid  came  from  the 
Court  of  Rome.  Pope  Paul  III  (Alexander  Farnese)  issued 
his  Bull  "Euntes  docete  omnes  gentes,"  in  which  he  said  that 
the  Indians  were  to  be  considered  "as  veritable  men  not 
only  capable  of  receiving  the  Christian  faith,  but,  as  we 
have  learnt,  most  ready  to  embrace  it."  He  followed  this 
brief  by  a  letter  to  the  Archbishop  of  Toledo,  the  primate  of 
Spain,  in  which  he  wrote: 

"It  has  come  to  our  knowledge  that  our  dearest  son  in 
Christ,  Charles,  the  ever  august  emperor  of  the  Romans, 
king  of  Castille  and  Leon,  in  order  to  repress  those  who, 
boiling  over  with  cupidity,  bear  an  inhuman  mind  against 
the  human  race,  has  by  public  edict  forbidden  all  his  sub- 
jects from  making  slaves  of  the  Western  and  Southern 
Indians,  or  depriving  them  of  their  goods." 

He  closed  this  letter  with  a  sentence  of  absolute  excom- 
munication against  all  who  should  make  slaves  of  the 

274  PANAMA 

The  delight  of  Las  Casas  on  the  receipt  of  these  papal 
letters  can  "  easily  be  imagined."  He  translated  them  into 
Spanish  and  saw  that  they  were  widely  circulated  in  the 

In  1539  Las  Casas  went  to  Spain  to  plead  for  the  send- 
ing of  more  missionaries  to  Guatemala.  He  was  as  usual 
favorably  received,  and  his  requests  were  granted.  He  was 
detained  at  the  Court  to  assist  in  the  deliberations  of  the 
Council  of  the  Indies.  It  was  during  this  time  that  he 
wrote  two  of  his  most  important  treatises,  "The  Destruc- 
tion of  the  Indies,"  and  his  even  more  important  "Veynte 
Razones,"  in  which  he  gives  twenty  reasons  to  prove  that 
the  system  of  repartimientos  was  iniquitous  and  un-Chris- 

These  pamphlets  and  his  verbal  arguments  before  the 
council  resulted  in  the  framing  of  "The  New  Laws,"  which, 
while  the  pretext  for  Gonzalo  Pizarro's  rebellion  in  Peru 
and  of  insurrections  in  other  places,  on  the  whole  were  en- 
forceable and  succeeded  in  preventing  the  absolute  extermi- 
nation of  the  Indians. 

"The  New  Laws,"  writes  Helps,  "had  been  a  signal 
triumph  for  Las  Casas.  Without  him,  without  his  untiring 
energy  and  singular  influence  over  those  whom  he  came 
near,  these  laws  would  not  have  been  enacted.  The  mere 
bodily  fatigue  which  he  endured  was  such  as  hardly  any 
man  of  his  time,  not  a  conqueror,  had  encountered.  He 
had  crossed  the  ocean  twelve  times.  Four  times  he  had 
made  his  way  into  Germany,  to  see  the  emperor.  Had  a 
record  been  kept  of  his  wanderings,  such  as  that  which 
exists  of  the  journeys  of  Charles  the  Fifth,  it  would  have 
shown  that  Las  Casas  had  led  a  much  more  active  life  than 
even  that  energetic  monarch.  Moreover,  the  journeyings 
of  Las  Casas  were  often  made  with  all  the  inconvenience 
of  poverty." 

LAS   CASAS  275 

In  recognition  of  his  untiring  public  service,  the  emperor 
offered  him  the  bishopric  of  Cusco,  in  Peru.  For  many 
reasons,  principally  a  distaste  for  lofty  positions,  the  Clerigo 
refused  this,  the  richest  see  in  America.  But  after  much 
urging  he  accepted  the  episcopal  office  in  the  newly  con- 
quered province  of  Chiapa,  a  district  near  the  scene  of  his 
successful  labors  in  the  Tierra  Guerra  of  Guatemala.  He 
was  consecrated  in  Seville  and  on  the  4th  of  July,  1544,  he 
sailed,  with  forty-five  Dominican  monks,  to  proselyte  his 
frontier  diocese. 

He  was  exceedingly  ill-received  when  he  stopped  in  Santo 
Domingo.  Unquestionably  he  was  the  best  hated  man  in 
the  New  World.  Imagine  Wendell  Phillips  in  Richmond, 
just  after  Appomattox  Court  House.  For  Las  Casas  had 
won  his  long  fight  against  greed.  The  maltreatment  of  the 
Indians  of  course  continued,  but  it  was  no  longer  legal. 
The  Bishop  of  Chiapa  was  now  seventy  years  old.  He  had 
commenced  his  mission  at  forty.  The  thirty  years  of  de- 
voted agitation  had  resulted  in  the  pope's  bull  which  pro- 
nounced slavery  un-Christian  and  the  New  Laws  which 
made  it  illegal.  All  his  long  journey  to  Ciudad  Real,  the 
capital  of  Chiapa,  was  a  Via  Crucis.  In  some  places  he 
was  stoned. 

"The  hatred  to  Las  Casas,"  writes  Sir  Arthur  Helps, 
"  throughout  the  New  World,  amounted  to  a  passion. 
Letters  were  written  to  the  residents  in  Chiapa,  expressing 
pity  for  them  as  having  met  the  greatest  misfortune  that 
could  occur  to  them,  in  being  placed  under  such  a  bishop. 
They  did  not  name  him,  but  spoke  of  him  as  'That  Devil 
who  has  come  to  you  for  a  bishop.'  The  following  is  an 
extract  from  one  of  these  letters.  'We  say  here,  that  very 
great  must  be  the  sins  of  your  country,  when  God  chastises 
it  with  such  a  scourge  as  sending  that  Antichrist  for  a 

276  PANAMA 

Arrived  at  his  new  post  the  godly  bishop  had  the  audacity 
to  take  the  pope's  bull  literally.  He  refused  absolution  to 
all  Spaniards  who  held  slaves.  The  officials  not  enforcing 
the  laws  to  suit  him,  he  journeyed  to  Honduras  to  lay  the 
case  before  the  Audiencia.  Unable  to  get  redress  he  threat- 
ened to  excommunicate  the  judges  if  they  refused  to  do  their 
duty.  He  tells  how  one  of  them  whose  conscience  troubled 
him  mightily  lost  his  temper  and  heaped  abuse  on  him  in 
court.  "  You  are  a  scoundrel,"  he  shouted,  "  an  evil  man,  a 
bad  monk,  a  worse  bishop — a  shameless  scoundrel — you 
ought  to  be  flogged."  Las  Casas  replied,  "The  Lord  will 
punish  me  for  my  sins,  which  are  many." 

By  his  fearless  persistence  he  at  last  forced  the  Audiencia 
to  send  an  officer  to  Chiapa  to  enforce  the  laws.  When  the 
inhabitants  of  Ciudad  Real  heard  of  the  bishop's  triumph 
they  determined  to  resist  his  entry  into  the  city. 

Las  Casas  writes  that  although  he  came  "unguarded  and 
on  foot,  with  only  a  stick  in  his  hand,  and  a  breviary  in  his 
girdle,"  they  strapped  on  their  armor  and  loaded  their 

On  the  way  he  stopped  at  a  Dominican  monastery.  The 
monks  urged  him  to  turn  back,  saying  that  the  infuriated 
populace  would  surely  kill  him.  But  he  insisted  on  going 

"For,"  he  said  "if  I  do  not  go  to  Ciudad  Real,  I  banish 
myself  from  my  church;  and  it  will  be  said  of  me,  with 
much  reason,  'The  wicked  fleeth;  and  no  man  pursueth.' 
.  .  .  If  I  do  not  endeavour  to  enter  my  church,  of  whom 
shall  I  have  to  complain  to  the  king,  or  to  the  pope,  as  having 
thrust  me  out  of  it?  Are  my  adversaries  so  bitter  against 
me  that  the  first  word  will  be  a  deadly  thrust  through  my 
heart,  without  giving  me  the  chance  of  soothing  them?  In 
conclusion,  reverend  fathers,  I  am  resolved,  trusting  in  the 
mercy  of  God  and  in  your  holy  prayers,  to  set  out  for  my 

LAS   CASAS  277 

diocese.  To  tarry  here,  or  to  go  elsewhere,  has  all  the  in- 
conveniences which  have  just  been  stated." 

He  indeed  had  a  stormy  reception.  But  his  simple  man- 
ner prevailed  over  the  mob.  When  one  of  them  reviled 
him,  he  said,  "I  will  not  answer  you — for  your  insults  are 
addressed,  not  to  me,  but  to  God."  By  his  fearless  non- 
resistance  he  won  the  ascendency  over  his  flock  and  after  a 
few  hours  of  turbulence  they  came  to  him  on  their  knees, 
asking  for  pardon. 

The  Peruvian  Rebellion  had  forced  the  emperor  to  reduce 
the  rigor  of  the  "New  Laws."  All  Spaniards  who  held 
repartimientos  were  to  be  allowed  to  keep  them  during  their 
lives,  but  no  new  grants  were  to  be  made.  This  let-up  was 
undoubtedly  a  severe  disappointment  to  Las  Casas.  But 
although  he  seemed  to  have  been  defeated,  his  work  bore, 
in  reality,  marvellous  fruit.  Although  temporarily  revived, 
the  brutal  system  had  received  its  death  blow.  In  1547, 
he  resigned  from  his  bishopric  and  returned  to  Spain  where 
he  felt  that  he  could  have  greater  influence  in  Indian  affairs. 

About  this  time  a  learned  doctor  of  laws,  Juan  Gine*s 
Sepulveda,  wrote  a  treatise,  "De  Justis  Belli  Causis."  It 
was  an  elaborate  argument  in  favor  of  Indian  slavery.  Las 
Casas  at  once  commenced  a  polemical  discussion  with  him. 
In  1550,  when  he  was  seventy-six  years  old,  he  met  Sepulveda 
in  an  open  debate  before  the  emperor.  For  five  consecutive 
days  he  read  an  argument  which  was  afterwards  printed 
under  the  title  "Historia  Apolige'tica."  A  referee  condensed 
this  long  treatise  into  twelve  propositions,  to  which  Sepul- 
veda returned  twelve  counter-propositions.  Las  Casas  was 
allowed  to  present  twelve  answers.  One  selection  from  his 
argument  will  do  as  a  sample  of  the  whole  disputation. 

To  Sepulveda's  proposition  in  favor  of  the  right  of  con- 
quest, Las  Casas  replied: 

"The  doctor  founds  these  rights  upon  our  superiority  in 

278  PANAMA 

arms,  and  upon  our  having  more  bodily  strength  than  the 
Indians.  This  is  simply  to  place  our  kings  in  the  position 
of  tyrants.  The  right  of  those  kings  rests  upon  their 
extension  of  the  Gospel  in  the  New  World,  and  their  good 
government  of  the  Indian  nations.  These  duties  they 
would  be  bound  to  fulfil  even  at  their  own  expense;  much 
more  so  considering  the  treasures  they  have  received  from 
the  Indies.  To  deny  this  doctrine  is  to  flatter  and  deceive 
our  monarchs,  and  to  put  their  salvation  in  peril.  The  doc- 
tor perverts  the  natural  order  of  things,  making  the  means 
the  end,  and  what  is  accessory  the  principal.  The  acces- 
sory is  temporal  advantage:  the  principal,  the  preaching  of 
the  true  faith.  He  who  is  ignorant  of  this,  small  is  his 
knowledge;  and  he  who  denies  it,  is  no  more  of  a  Christian 
than  Mahomet  was." 

The  result  of  the  controversy  was  a  Scotch  verdict;  the 
learned  jury  concurred  in  the  opinions  of  Sepulveda,  but  the 
king  and  his  councillors,  convinced  by  the  eloquent  logic  of 
Las  Casas,  prohibited  the  circulation  of  the  doctor's  book  in 
the  colonies.  In  a  private  letter  Sepulveda  wrote  of  his  aged 
opponent  as  "most  subtile,  most  vigilant,  and  most  fluent, 
compared  with  whom  Ulysses  of  Homer  was  a  tongue-tied 

The  reclining  years  of  the  Apostle  to  the  Indians  were 
spent  in  writing.  Besides  many  controversial  treatises,  he 
produced  a  monumental  history  of  the  Discovery  and  Con- 
quest. When  ninety  years  old  he  published  a  treatise  on 
Peru — one  of  the  most  forceful  things  which  ever  came  from 
his  pen.  This  was  apparently  his  last  literary  work.  But 
two  years  later,  hearing  from  the  Dominican  Fathers  in 
Guatemala  of  some  abuses  in  the  administration  of  justice, 
he  left  his  monastery  in  Valladolid  and  travelled  to  Madrid. 
So  ably  did  he  present  the  matter  to  the  king  that  the  neces- 
sary reforms  were  granted. 

LAS   CASAS  279 

Almost  inmediately  after  this  last  pilgrimage  in  behalf 
of  his  beloved  Indians,  while  still  in  Madrid,  he  fell  sick  and 
in  July,  1566,  died  at  the  age  of  ninety-two. 

Sir  Arthur  Helps,  the  eminent  historian  of  the  Conquest 
and  a  biographer  of  Las  Casas,  sums  up  his  character  in 
these  paragraphs: 

"The  life  of  Las  Casas  appears  to  me  one  of  the  most  in- 
teresting, indeed  I  may  say  the  most  interesting,  of  all  those 
that  I  have  ever  studied;  and  I  think  it  is  more  than  the  nat- 
ural prejudice  of  a  writer  for  his  hero,  that  inclines  me  to 
look  upon  him  as  one  of  the  most  remarkable  personages 
that  has  ever  appeared  in  history.  It  is  well  known  that 
he  has  ever  been  put  in  the  foremost  rank  of  philanthropists; 
but  he  had  other  qualifications  which  were  also  extraordinary. 
He  was  not  a  mere  philanthropist,  possessed  only  with  one 
idea.  He  had  one  of  those  large  minds  which  take  an  in- 
terest in  everything.  As  an  historian,  a  man  of  letters,  a 
colonist,  a  missionary,  a  theologian,  an  active  ruler  in  the 
Church,  a  man  of  business,  and  an  observer  of  natural  his- 
tory and  science,  he  holds  a  very  high  position  amongst  the 
notable  men  of  his  own  age.  The  ways,  the  customs,  the 
religion,  the  policy,  the  laws,  of  the  new  people  whom  he 
saw,  the  new  animals,  the  new  trees,  the  new  herbs,  were  all 
observed  and  chronicled  by  him. 

"In  an  age  eminently  superstitious,  he  was  entirely  devoid 
of  superstition.  At  a  period  when  the  most  extravagant 
ideas  as  to  the  divine  rights  of  kings  prevailed,  he  took 
occasion  to  remind  kings  themselves  to  their  faces,  that  they 
are  only  permitted  to  govern  for  the  good  of  the  people. 

"At  a  period  when  brute  force  was  universally  appealed 
to  in  all  matters,  but  more  especially  in  those  that  pertained 
to  religion,  he  contended  before  juntas  and  royal  councils 
that  missionary  enterprise  is  a  thing  that  should  stand  inde- 
pendent of  all  military  support;  that  a  missionary  should 

280  PANAMA 

go  forth  with  his  life  in  his  hand,  relying  only  on  the  pro- 
tection that  God  will  vouchsafe  him,  and  depending  neither 
upon  civil  nor  military  assistance.  In  fact,  his  works  should, 
even  in  the  present  day,  form  the  best  manual  extant  for 
missionaries.  .  .  . 

"He  lived  in  most  stirring  times;  he  was  associated  with 
the  greatest  personages  of  his  day;  and  he  had  the  privilege 
of  taking  part  in  the  discovery  and  colonization  of  a  new 

"Eloquent,  devoted,  charitable,  fervent,  sometimes  too 
fervent,  yet  very  skilful  in  managing  men,  he  will  doubtless 
remind  the  reader  of  his  prototype,  Saint  Paul;  and  it  was 
very  fitting  that  he  should  have  been  called,  as  he  was,  the 
'Apostle  of  the  Indies.' 

"Notwithstanding  our  experience,  largely  confirmed  by 
history,  of  the  ingenuity  often  manifested  in  neglecting  to 
confer  honour  upon  those  who  most  deserve  it,  one  cannot 
help  wondering  that  the  Romish  Church  never  thought  of 
enrolling  Las  Casas  as  a  saint,  amongst  such  fellow-labourers 
as  Saint  Charles  of  Borromeo,  or  Saint  Francis  of  Assisi." 



ONE  of  the  most  interesting  phases  in  the  history  of  the 
Isthmus  is  the  sudden  development  of  an  immense  trade. 
For  about  a  century  the  rough  trail  from  Panama  City  across 
to  the  Atlantic  towns  of  Nombre  de  Dios  and  Puerto  Bello 
was  the  richest  trade  route  in  the  world. 

Even  after  the  wrought  gold  had  been  stripped  from  the 
temples  and  palaces  of  the  Incas,  the  rich  silver  mines  of 
Potosi  continued  to  produce  great  wealth.  Dye  woods  from 
the  west  coast  of  Central  America  furnished  also  a  valuable 
merchandise.  There  were  pearls  from  the  islands  and  many 
kinds  of  precious  stones  from  the  Andes.  In  exchange  for 
this  home-going  wealth  many  commodities  had  to  be  brought 
out  for  the  colonists.  The  commerce  of  Panama  even  crossed 
the  Pacific.  In  the  third  volume  of  the  "Hakluyt  Voyages" 
is  given  a  letter  from  a  merchant  which  is  dated  from  Panama, 
August  28th,  1590: 

"Here  I  haue  remained  these  20  dayes,  till  the  shippes  goe 
for  the  Philipinas.  My  meaning  is  to  carie  my  commodities 
thither:  for  it  is  constantly  reported,  that  for  every  hundred 
ducats  a  man  shall  get  600  ducats  cleerely.  We  must  stay 
here  till  it  be  Christmasse.  For  in  August,  September, 
October  and  November  is  it  winter  here  and  extreme  foule 
weather  upon  this  coast  of  Peru,  and  not  nauigable  to  goe  to 
the  Philipinas,  nor  any  place  else  in  the  South  sea.  So  that 
at  Christmasse  the  shipes  begin  to  set  on  their  voyage  for 
those  places." 


282  PANAMA 

This  letter  indicates  a  considerable  traffic  with  the  Spice 
Islands  and  the  Orient  via  Panama.  In  the  same  year  more 
than  ninety  ships  from  Spain  called  at  the  Atlantic  ports, 
an  average  of  almost  two  ships  a  week.  Even  to-day  that 
would  indicate  a  large  commerce. 

But  Spain  held  her  colonial  business  in  the  tightest  kind 
of  a  monopoly.  No  outsiders  were  to  be  allowed  to  share  in 
it.  Mr.  Haring,  in  his  "The  Buccaneers  in  the  West  Indies 
in  the  XVII  Century,"  which,  in  spite  of  its  thrilling  title, 
is  a  doctor's  thesis,  gives  much  interesting  information  about 
this  commercial  development. 

"The  first  means  adopted  by  the  northern  maritime  nations 
to  appropriate  to  themselves  a  share  of  the  riches  of  the 
New  World  was  open,  semi-piratical  attack  upon  the  Span- 
ish argosies  returning  from  those  distant  El  Dorados.  The 
success  of  the  Norman  and  Breton  corsairs,  for  it  was  the 
French,  not  the  English,  who  started  the  game,  gradually 
forced  upon  the  Spaniards,  as  a  means  of  protection,  the 
establishment  of  great  merchant  fleets  sailing  periodically  at 
long  intervals  and  accompanied  by  powerful  convoys.  Dur- 
ing the  first  half  of  the  sixteenth  century  any  ship  which  had 
fulfilled  the  conditions  required  for  engaging  in  American 
commerce  was  allowed  to  depart  alone  and  at  any  time  of 
the  year.  From  about  1526,  however,  merchant  vessels  were 
ordered  to  sail  together,  and  by  a  cedula  of  July,  1561,  the 
system  of  fleets  was  made  permanent  and  obligatory.  This 
decree  prohibited  any  ship  from  sailing  alone  to  America 
from  Cadiz  or  San  Lucar  on  pain  of  forfeiture  of  ship  and 
cargo.  Two  fleets  were  organized  each  year,  one  for  Terra 
Firma  going  to  Cartagena  and  Porto  Bello,  the  other  designed 
for  the  port  of  San  Juan  d'Uloa  (Vera  Cruz)  in  New  Spain. 
The  latter,  called  the  Flota,  was  commanded  by  an  "al- 
mirante,"  and  sailed  for  Mexico  in  the  early  summer  so  as 
to  avoid  the  hurricane  season  and  the  "northers"  of  the 

THE   DATS    OF    THE    GEE  AT    TRADE  283 

Mexican  Gulf.  The  former,  usually  called  the  galeones 
(anglice  "galleons")?  was  commanded  by  a  "general,"  and 
sailed  from  Spain  earlier  in  the  year,  between  January  and 
March.  If  it  departed  in  March,  it  usually  wintered  in 
Havana,  and  returned  with  the  Flota  in  the  following  spring. 
Sometimes  the  two  fleets  sailed  together  and  separated  at 
Guadaloupe,  Deseada  or  another  of  the  Leeward  Islands. 

"The  galleons  generally  consisted  of  from  five  to  eight 
war-vessels  carrying  from  forty  to  fifty  guns,  together  with 
several  smaller,  faster  boats  called  'patchers,'  and  a  fleet  of 
merchantmen  varying  in  number  in  different  years.  In  the 
time  of  Philip  II  often  as  many  as  forty  ships  supplied  Car- 
tagena and  Porto  Bello,  but  in  succeeding  reigns,  although 
the  population  of  the  Indies  was  rapidly  increasing,  American 
commerce  fell  off  so  sadly  that  eight  or  ten  were  sufficient 
for  the  trade  of  South  and  Central  America.  The  general 
of  the  galleons,  on  his  departure,  received  from  the  Council 
of  the  Indies  three  sealed  packets.  The  first,  opened  at  the 
Canaries,  contained  the  name  of  the  island  in  the  West  Indies 
at  which  the  fleet  was  first  to  call.  The  second  was  un- 
sealed after  the  galleons  arrived  at  Cartagena,  and  contained 
instructions  for  the  fleet  to  return  in  the  same  year  or  to 
winter  in  America.  In  the  third,  left  unopened  until  the 
fleet  emerged  from  the  Bahama  Channel  on  the  homeward 
voyage,  were  orders  for  the  route  to  the  Azores  and  the 
islands  they  should  touch  in  passing,  usually  Corvo  and 
Flores  or  Santa  Maria.  .  .  . 

"The  fleet  reached  Cartagena  ordinarily  about  two  months 
after  its  departure  from  Cadiz.  On  its  arrival,  the  general 
forwarded  the  news  to  Porto  Bello,  together  with  the  packets 
destined  for  the  viceroy  at  Lima.  From  Porto  Bello  a 
courier  hastened  across  the  Isthmus  to  the  President  of 
Panama,  who  spread  the  advice  amongst  the  merchants  in 
his  jurisdiction,  and,  at  the  same  time,  sent  a  dispatch  boat 

284  PANAMA 

to  Payta,  in  Peru.  The  general  of  the  galleons,  meanwhile, 
was  also  sending  a  courier  overland  to  Lima,  and  another  to 
Santa  Fe,  the  capital  of  the  interior  province  of  New  Grenada, 
whence  runners  carried  to  Popayan,  Antioquia,  Margarita, 
and  adjacent  provinces,  the  news  of  his  arrival.  The 
galleons  were  instructed  to  remain  at  Cartagena  only  a 
month,  but  bribes  from  the  merchants  generally  made  it  their 
interest  to  linger  for  fifty  or  sixty  days.  To  Cartagena  came 
the  gold  and  emeralds  of  New  Grenada,  the  pearls  of  Mar- 
garita and  Rancherias,  and  the  indigo,  tobacco,  cocoa  and 
other  products  of  the  Venezuelan  coast.  The  merchants  of 
Guatemala,  likewise,  shipped  their  commodities  to  Cartagena 
by  way  of  Lake  Nicaragua  and  San  Juan  river,  for  they  feared 
to  send  goods  across  the  Gulf  of  Honduras  to  Havana,  be- 
cause of  the  French  and  English  buccaneers  hanging  about 
Cape  San  Antonio.  Meanwhile  the  viceroy  at  Lima,  on 
receipt  of  his  letters,  ordered  the  Armada  of  the  South  Sea 
to  prepare  to  sail,  and  sent  word  south  to  Chili  and  through- 
out the  province  of  Peru  from  Las  Charces  to  Quito,  to 
forward  the  King's  revenues  for  shipment  to  Panama. 
Within  less  than  a  fortnight  all  was  in  readiness.  The 
Armada,  carrying  a  considerable  treasure,  sailed  from  Callao 
and,  touching  at  Payta,  was  joined  by  the  Navio  del  Oro 
(golden  ship),  which  carried  the  gold  from  the  province  of 
Quito  and  adjacent  districts.  While  the  galleons  were  ap- 
proaching Porto  Bello  the  South  Sea  fleet  arrived  before 
Panama,  and  the  merchants  of  Chili  and  Peru  began  to 
transfer  their  merchandise  on  mules  across  the  high  back 
of  the  Isthmus. 

"Then  began  the  famous  fair  of  Porto  Bello.  The  town, 
whose  permanent  population  was  very  small  and  composed 
mostly  of  negroes  and  mulattoes,  was  suddenly  called  upon 
to  accommodate  an  enormous  crowd  of  merchants,  soldiers 
and  seamen.  Food  and  shelter  were  to  be  had  only  at 


extraordinary  prices.  .  .  .  Merchants  gave  as  much  as 
1,000  crowns  for  a  moderate-sized  shop  in  which  to  sell  their 
commodities.  Owing  to  overcrowding,  bad  sanitation,  and 
an  extremely  unhealthy  climate,  the  place  became  an 
open  grave,  ready  to  swallow  all  who  resorted  there.  In 
1637,  during  the  fifteen  days  that  the  galleons  remained  at 
Porto  Bello,  500  men  died  of  sickness.  Meanwhile,  day  by 
day,  the  mule-trains  from  Panama  were  winding  their  way 
into  the  town.  .  .  .  While  the  treasure  of  the  King  of 
Spain  was  being  transferred  to  the  galleons  in  the  harbor, 
the  merchants  were  making  their  trade.  There  was  little 
liberty,  however,  in  commercial  transactions,  for  the  prices 
were  fixed  and  published  beforehand,  and  when  negotiations 
began  exchange  was  purely  mechanical.  The  fair,  which  was 
supposed  to  be  open  for  forty  days,  was  in  later  times 
generally  completed  in  ten  or  twelve.  At  the  beginning  of 
the  eighteenth  century  the  volume  of  business  transacted 
was  estimated  to  amount  to  thirty  or  forty  million  pounds 

Fortunately  we  have  a  good  description  of  the  Isthmus 
during  the  days  of  its  commercial  prosperity  from  the  pen 
of  an  Englishman.  The  Spanish  government  carried  its 
policy  of  excluding  foreigners  from  the  Indies  to  such  an 
extent  that  almost  no  one  but  Spaniards  saw  the  colonial 
cities  except  by  stealth  or  as  conquerors.  But  in  the  quaint 
old  volume  "The  English- American,  his  Travail  by  Sea  and 
Land,  or  a  new  Survey  of  the  West  Indies  ...  As  also 
of  his  strange  and  wonderful  Conversion  and  Calling  from 
those  remote  Parts  to  his  Native  Country — By  the  true  and 
painful  Endeavours  of  Thomas  Gage,  now  Preacher  of  the 
Word  of  God  at  Acris  in  the  County  of  Kent" — we  get  a  most 
interesting  inside  view.  Thomas  Gage  had  a  rare  oppor- 
tunity to  visit  the  colonies  and  he  had  an  equally  rare  gift 
of  description. 

286  PANAMA 

Born  in  England,  he  had  been  taken  to  the  Continent  at 
an  early  age  and  was  raised  in  the  Catholic  faith.  He 
entered  the  priesthood  and  in  that  capacity  went  to  the 
Indies.  Passing  through  Mexico,  he  at  last  settled  in 

Frangois  Coreal,  who  visited  the  colonies  as  a  smuggler 
and  has  left  a  very  vivacious  account  of  his  adventures, 
wrote : 

"«F  avouie  qu'il  y  a  des  Missionaires  de  bonne  foi,  qui 
ont  a  coeur  la  gloire  de  Dieu  &  le  salut  des  ames  des  Idolatres. 
Ceux-la  sont  en  petit  nombre.  Tous  les  autres  cherchent 
dans  les  conversions  P  augmentation  de  leurs  revenus  &  leurs 
profit  temporal." 

Thomas  Gage  was  of  the  "petit  nombre"  "de  bonne  foi." 
With  true  missionary  zeal  he  had  followed  in  the  footsteps 
of  Las  Casas  and  mastered  the  native  dialects.  He  seems 
to  have  known  very  little  about  Protestantism,  but  there 
alone  in  the  Central  American  jungle  he  had  a  little  Reforma- 
tion all  by  himself.  Full  of  doubts  about  some  of  the  dogmas 
he  was  expected  to  teach,  he  resolved  to  go  to  Rome,  and, 
at  the  fountain  head  of  his  religion,  find  the  truth. 

But  he  had  become  so  valuable  to  his  superiors  as  an 
interpreter  that  they  would  not  grant  him  permission  to 
leave.  For  some  months — with  great  travail  of  soul — he 
remained  at  his  post.  Then  he  ran  away.  He  made  his 
way  on  foot  to  the  Pacific  coast,  after  almost  incredible 
adventures;  he  got  on  shipboard  in  the  Golfo  de  Salina, 
"hoping  to  have  been  at  Panama  within  five  or  six  days. 
But  as  often  before  we  had  been  crossed,  so  likewise  in  this 
short  passage  wee  were  striving  with  the  Wind,  Sea  and  Cor- 
rientes,  as  they  are  called  (which  are  swift  streams  as  of 
a  River)  foure  full  weeks." 

From  Panama  he  crossed  to  Puerto  Bello,  and  finally  got 
ship  for  Europe.  He  left  the  Catholic  Church  and  settled 


in  England.  He  dedicated  his  book,  which  was  published 
in  1648,  to  "His  Excellency  Sr  Thomas  Fairfax,  Knight, 
Lord  Fairfax  of  Cameron,  Captain-General  of  the  Parlia- 
ment's Army;  and  of  all  their  Forces  in  England  and  the 
Dominion  of  Wales." 

It  is  a  remarkable  book,  the  most  interesting  description 
of  the  Indies  I  have  found.  Side  by  side  he  records  shrewd, 
almost  scientific,  observations  of  nature  and  the  customs  of 
the  Indians  and  gives  vivid  narrative  of  his  manifold  ad- 
ventures and  hair-breadth  escapes.  Interwoven  through  it 
are  theological  discussions,  and  fascinating  discourses  they 
are,  for  they  are  illumined  by  the  soul-tragedy  of  this  honest, 
simple  man,  struggling  desperately  towards  what  he  thought 
to  be  salvation. 

But  the  book  interests  us  especially  here,  as  it  contains 
the  one  reliable  account  which  was  written  in  our  own  lan- 
guage of  Panama  and  Puerto  Bello  in  the  Days  of  the  Great 
Trade.  I  have  taken  a  few  liberties  with  the  arrangement 
of  his  text  to  avoid  tedious  repetitions : 

"Castella  del  Oro  is  situated  in  the  very  Isthmus,  and  is 
not  very  populous  by  reason  of  the  unhealthfulness  of  the 
aire,  and  noisome  savour  of  the  standing  pooles.  The  chief 
places  belonging  to  the  Spaniards,  are  first  Theonimay  or 
Nombre  de  Dios  on  the  East,  the  second  which  is  six  leagues 
from  Nombre  de  Dios  is  Portobel,  now  chiefly  inhabited  by 
Spaniards  and  Mulattoes  and  Black-mores,  and  Nombre  de 
Dios  almost  forsaken  by  reason  of  its  unhealthfulnesse.  .  . 
As  I  have  before  observed,  the  aire  being  here  very  un- 
healthful,  the  King  of  Spain  in  the  yeare  1584  commanded 
that  the  houses  ...  be  pulled  downe  and  to  be  rebuild 
in  a  more  healthy  and  convenient  place :  which  was  performed 
in  ...  Portobel.  .  .  . 

"The  ships  which  were  wont  to  anchor  in  Nombre  de  Dios, 
and  there  take  in  the  King's  treasure  which  is  yeerly  brought 

288  PANAMA 

from  Peru  to  Panama,  and  from  thence  to  the  North  Sea, 
now  harbour  themselves  in  Portobel;  which  signify eth 
...  a  faire  and  goodly  Haven,  for  so  indeed  it  is,  and  well 
fortified  at  the  entrance  with  three  Castles  which  can  reach 
and  command  one  another  .  .  . 

"The  third  and  chief e  place  belonging  to  the  Spaniards  in 
Castilla  del  Oro  is  Panama  .  .  .  upon  the  South  Sea." 

After  describing  his  life  in  the  Guatemalan  monastery, 
his  escape  to  the  Golfo  de  Salina,  and  the  "foure  full  weeks" 
of  desperate  storms  at  sea  he  tells  how  at  last  they  cast 
anchor  off  the  old  town  of  Panama. 

"I,  being  now  well  strengthened  made  no  stay  in  that 
frigot  .  .  .  but  went  to  land,  and  betook  myself  to 
the  Cloister  of  the  Dominicans,  where  I  stayed  almost  fifteen 
daies,  viewing  and  reviewing  the  City;  which  is  governed  like 
Guatemala  by  a  President  and  six  Judges,  and  a  Court  of 
Chancery,  and  is  a  Bishops  sea.  It  hath  more  strength 
towards  the  South  Sea,  than  any  other  Port  which  on  that 
side  I  hath  seen,  and  some  Ordinances  planted  for  defence 
of  it;  but  the  houses  are  of  the  least  strength  of  any  place  that 
I  had  entred  in;  for  lime  and  stone  is  hard  to  come  by,  and 
therefore  for  that  reason,  and  for  the  great  heat  there,  most 
of  the  houses  are  built  of  timber  and  bords;  the  President's 
house,  nay  the  best  Church  walls  are  but  bords,  which  serve 
for  stone  and  bricke,  and  for  tiles  to  cover  the  roof.  The  heat 
is  so  extraordinary  that  a  linnen  cut  doublet,  with  some 
light  stuffe  or  taffetie  breeches  is  the  common  cloathing  of 
the  inhabitants.  Fish,  fruit  and  herbage  for  sallets  is  more 
plentifull  there  than  flesh ;  the  coole  water  of  the  Coco  is  the 
womens  best  drinke,  though  Chocolate  also  and  much  wine 
from  Peru  be  very  abounding.  The  Spaniards  are  in  this 
city  much  given  to  sinne,  loosenesse  and  venery  ...  It 
is  held  to  be  one  of  the  richest  places  in  all  America,  having 
by  land  and  by  the  river  Chiagre  (Chagres)  commerce  with 

TEE    DAYS    OF    THE   GEEAT    TEADE  289 

the  North  Sea,  and  by  the  South,  trading  with  all  Peru, 
East  Indies,  Mexico  and  Honduras.  Thither  is  brought 
the  chief  treasure  of  Peru  in  two  or  three  great  ships,  which 
lie  at  anchor  at  Puerto  Perico  some  three  leagues  from  the 
City  ...  It  consisteth  of  some  five  thousand  in- 
habitants, and  maintaineth  at  least  eight  Cloisters  of  Nuns 
and  Friars.  I  feared  much  the  heats,  and  therefore  made 
as  much  haste  out  of  it  as  I  could." 

It  was  in  1637  that  Gage  made  this  visit  to  Panama.  An 
earlier  description  of  the  city  was  translated  into  English 
and  published  by  Hakluyt: 

"Relation  of  the  ports,  harbors,  forts,  and  cities  in  the 
West  Indies  which  have  been  surveied,  edified,  finished, 
made  and  mended,  with  those  which  have  been  builded,  in  a 
certaine  survey  by  the  king  of  Spaine,  his  direction  and  com- 
mandment: Written  by  Baptista  Antonio,  surveyor  in  those 
parts  for  the  said  King.  Anno  1587." 

After  Sir  Francis  Drake's  raids,  this  man  Baptista  Antonio 
was  sent  out  to  advise  the  King  about  fortifying  his  colonial 
possessions.  The  following  passages  are  from  his  report: 

"Panama  is  the  principall  citie  of  this  Dioces:  it  lieth 
18.  leagues  from  Nombre  de  Dios  on  the  South  sea,  and 
standeth  in  9.  degrees.  There  are  3.  Monasteries  in  this 
said  city  of  fryers,  the  one  is  of  Dominicks,  the  other  is  of 
Augustines,  and  the  third  is  of  S.  Francis  fryers:  also  there 
is  a  College  of  Jesuits,  and  the  royall  audience  or  chancery  is 
kept  in  this  citie. 

"This  citie  is  situated  hard  by  the  sea  side  on  a  sandy 
bay:  the  one  side  of  this  citie  is  environed  with  the  sea,  and 
on  the  other  side  it  is  enclosed  with  the  arme  of  the  sea 
which  runneth  up  into  the  land  1000.  yards. 

"This  citie  hath  three  hundred  and  fiftie  houses,  all  built 
of  timber,  and  there  are  sixe  hundred  dwellers  and  eight 
hundred  souldiers  with  the  townesmen,  and  foure  hundred 

290  PANAMA 

Negros  of  Guyney,  and  some  of  them  are  freemen :  and  there 
is  another  towne  which  is  called  Santa  Cruz  la  Real  of 
Negros  Simerons,  and  most  of  them  are  imployed  in  your 
majesties  service,  and  they  are  100.  in  number,  and  this 
towne  is  a  league  from  this  citie  upon  a  great  rivers  side, 
which  is  a  league  from  the  sea  right  over  against  the  harbour 
of  Periocos.  But  there  is  no  trust  nor  confidence  in  any  of 
these  Negros,  and  therefore  we  must  take  heede  and  beware 
of  them,  for  they  are  our  mortall  enemies.  .  .  . 

"Upon  the  East  side  of  this  citie  there  are  your  majesties 
royall  houses  builded  upon  a  rocke  joyning  hard  to  the  Sea 
side,  and  they  doe  as  well  leane  towards  the  sea  as  the  land. 
The  royall  audience  or  chancerie  is  kept  here  in  these  houses, 
and  likewise  the  prison.  And  in  this  place  all  your  majesties 
treasure  is  kept.  There  dwelleth  in  these  houses  your 
majesties  Treasurer,  the  Lord  President,  and  3.  Judges,  and 
master  Atturney.  All  these  doe  dwell  in  these  houses,  and 
the  rest  of  your  majesties  officers:  which  are  sixe  houses 
beside  those  of  the  Lord  President,  the  which  are  all  dwelling 
houses,  and  all  ad  joyning  together  one  by  another  along  upon 
the  rockes.  And  they  are  builded  all  of  timber  and  bourdes, 
as  the  other  houses  are.  So  where  the  prison  standeth  and 
the  great  hall,  these  two  places  may  bee  very  well  fortified, 
because  they  serve  so  fitly  for  the  purpose,  by  reason 
they  are  builded  towardes  the  sea.  .  .  . 

"And  forasmuch  as  the  most  part  of  these  people  are 
marchants,  they  will  not  fight,  but  onely  keepe  their  owne 
persons  in  safetie,  and  save  their  goods;  as  it  hath  bene  sene 
heretofore  in  other  places  of  these  Indies. 

"So  if  it  will  please  your  majesty  to  cause  these  houses 
to  bee  strongly  fortified,  considering  it  standeth  in  a  very 
good  place  if  any  sudden  alarms  shoulde  happen,  then  the 
citizens  with  their  goods  may  get  themselves  to  this  place, 
and  so  escape  the  terrour  of  the  enemy:  and  so  this  will  be  a 


good  securitie  for  all  the  treasure  which  doth  come  from 
Peru.  .  .  . 

"Here  in  this  harbor  are  alwayes  10  to  12  barks  of  60  or 
50  tunnes  apiece,  which  do  belong  to  this  harbor." 

It  will  be  seen  by  a  comparison  of  the  two  quotations  how 
rapidly  the  city  had  grown  from  1,900,  including  the  "sime- 
rons, ' ?  to  5,000  in  fifty  years.  Apparently  Gage  is  in  error 
in  saying  that  even  the  best  church  was  built  of  wood,  for 
the  Cathedral  of  St.  Anastasius  must  have  been  well  under 
way,  if  not  already  completed,  when  he  wrote. 

Esquemelin,  in  describing  the  city  as  it  was  in  1671,  writes: 

"There  belonged  to  this  city  (which  is  also  the  head  of  a 
bishopric)  eight  monasteries,  whereof  seven  were  for  men 
and  one  for  women;  two  stately  churches  and  one  hospital. 
The  churches  and  monasteries  were  all  richly  adorned  with 
altar-pieces  and  paintings,  huge  quantity  of  gold  and  silver, 
with  other  precious  things;  .  .  .  Besides  which  orna- 
ments, here  were  to  be  seen  two  thousand  houses  of  mag- 
nificent and  prodigious  building,  being  all  of  the  greatest  part 
inhabited  by  merchants  of  that  country,  who  are  vastly 
rich.  For  the  rest  of  the  inhabitants  of  lesser  quality  and 
tradesmen,  this  city  contained  five  thousand  houses  more. 
Here  were  also  great  numbers  of  stables,  which  served  for 
the  horses  and  mules,  that  carry  all  the  plate,  belonging  as 
well  unto  the  King  of  Spain  as  to  private  men,  towards  the 
coast  of  the  North  Sea.  The  neighbouring  fields  belonging 
to  this  city  are  all  cultivated  and  fertile  plantations,  and 
pleasant  gardens,  which  afford  delicious  prospects  unto  the 
inhabitants  the  whole  year  long." 

These  are  the  three  best  accounts  of  the  old  city  of  Panama 
by  people  whom  we  know  to  be  giving  first-hand  accounts. 

There  is  some  doubt  as  to  whether  Frangois  Coreal  saw 
the  city  before  Morgan's  Raid.  But  having  first  come  to  the 
Indies  in  1666,  five  years  before  the  destruction  of  the  place, 

292  PANAMA 

he  must  at  least  have  received  his  information  from  people 
who  had  been  there.  He  writes : 

"This  city  had  seven  or  eight  thousand  houses,  most  of 
which  were  of  wood  and  thatch.  The  streets  were  quite 
beautiful,  large  and  regular.  The  great  merchants  occupied 
the  most  beautiful  houses  of  the  city  and  nothing  was  lacking 
in  the  magnificence  of  these  gentlemen.  There  were  eight 
convents,  a  beautiful  Cathedral  Church  and  a  Hospital 
maintained  by  nuns.  The  Bishop  was,  as  is  still  the  case, 
suffragant  to  the  Archbishop  of  Lima  and  Primate  of  Tierra 
Firme.  The  fields  there  were  well  cultivated.  The  suburbs 
of  the  city  were  decorated  by  beautiful  gardens  and  farms. 
.  .  .  As  all  the  commerce  of  Chili  and  Peru  has  its 
terminal  port  at  Panama,  the  stores  of  the  city  are  always 
filled  and  the  harbor  is  never  without  some  ships." 

One  must  make  certain  allowances  for  the  imagination  of 
these  early  chroniclers.  With  equal  seriousness  they  often 
tell  of  Griffins  and  Sea  Monsters.  But  on  the  whole  they 
were  amazingly  accurate  in  their  descriptions  of  what  they 
actually  saw. 

Mr.  Charles  Francis  Adams  recently  read  a  paper  before 
the  Massachusetts  Historical  Society  (Proceedings  for  May, 
1911)  in  which  he  attempts  to  demolish  the  "Myth"  of  the 
grandeur  of  old  Panama  City.  He  quotes  several  rather 
exuberant  descriptions  of  the  place  from  modern  writers  and 
picks  them  to  pieces.  For  example,  gives  the  following 
from  a  recent  book  by  Mr.  Forbes-Lindsay : 

"In  its  palmy  days  Old  Panama  was  the  seat  of  wealth  and 
splendor  such  as  could  be  found  nowhere  else  in  the  world 
than  the  capitals  of  the  Orient.  At  the  court  of  the  Governor 
gathered  noblemen  and  ladies  of  gentle  birth.  There  were 
upwards  of  seven  thousand  houses  in  the  place,  many  of  them 
being  spacious  and  splendidly  furnished  mansions.  The 
monasteries,  convents  and  other  ecclesiastical  edifices  were 

THE   DAYS    OF    THE   GEE  AT    TEADE  293 

numerous,  and  contained  vast  amounts  of  treasure  in  their 
vaults.  There  were  fine  public  buildings  devoted  to  various 
purposes,  among  them  pretentious  stables  in  which  were 
housed  the  '  King's  horses.' " 

And  makes  this  comment  on  it: 

"But,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  a  remark  might  here  not  im- 
properly be  interjected  to  the  effect  that  the  horses  in  ques- 
tion were  in  reality  mules,  and  the  stables — Latin-American 

He  gives  in  extenso  the  report  of  Baptista  Antonio,  from 
which  I  have  quoted,  which,  by  the  way,  was  written  nearly 
a  century  before  the  burning  of  the  city.  On  the  basis  of 
this  account  and  his  personal  visits  to  the  ruins,  he  concludes : 

"In  the  first  place,  the  topography  of  the  site  and  sur- 
roundings is  as  Antonio  described  it  four  centuries  ago; 
but  the  foundations  and  ruins  still  remaining  of  the  struc- 
tures— fortifications,  ways,  bridges  and  edifices — are  at 
variance  with  the  statement  that  that  town,  as  such,  was  ever 
of  considerable  size.  Limited  to  an  area  of  at  most  two 
hundred  and  fifty  to  three  hundred  acres,  the  ruins  now  re- 
maining and  the  scattered  fragments  of  tile  show  conclusively 
that  Panama  Viejo  never  could  have  contained  within  its 
limits  either  the  buildings  and  dwellings,  or  the  avenues, 
streets  and  ways  described.  Both  the  public  edifices  and  the 
private  houses  were  limited  in  size — of  modest  dimensions,  as 
we  would  phrase  it — and,  apparently,  packed  closely  to- 
gether. In  place  of  the  fifty  thousand  sometimes  credited 
to  them,  they  never,  on  any  reasonable  estimate,  could  have 
sufficed  to  accommodate  a  population  in  excess  of  seven 
thousand.  Ten  thousand  would  be  a  maximum.  The 
foundations  of  'the  royal  houses  builded  upon  a  rock'  are 
still  there;  so  also  those  of  the  'audience  or  chancerie,'  as 
likewise  the  prison;  all  'adjoining  together  one  by  another 
along  upon  the  rocks.'  But  those  foundations  afford  proof 

294  PANAMA 

positive  of  the  dimensions  of  the  superstructures.  By  their 
proximity  to  each  other,  also,  they  show  that  there  never 
could  have  been  any  'broad  streets'  or  wide  thoroughfares 
in  the  town  or  approaching  it;  and  the  bridge,  of  which  we 
are  informed  that  'two  or  three  piers'  only  remain,  never 
had  but  a  single  span,  both  short  and  narrow,  thrown  across 
a  contemptible  mud-creek,  almost  devoid  of  water  in  the  dry 
season  or  at  low  tide;  and  that  single  span — a  very  pic- 
turesque one,  by  the  way — is  still  there.  That  a  great  store  of 
wealth  for  those  days  annually  passed  through  Old  Panama, 
there  can  be  no  question.  The  place,  was,  however,  merely  a 
channel;  and,  after  a  fairly  close  inspection,  I  do  not  hesitate 
to  repeat  that  the  stories  of  its  art,  its  population  and  its 
treasures — generally  of  its  size  and  splendor — constitute 
about  as  baseless  an  historic  fabric  as  the  legions  that  fought 
at  Marathon  or  the  myriads  that  followed  Xerxes.  Old  Pan- 
ama, as  seen  through  the  imagination  of  modern  investiga- 
tors, bears,  I  believe,  just  as  much  resemblance  to  the  six- 
teenth century  reality  as  Francis  Drake's  Golden  Hind  would 
bear  to  a  present-day  Atlantic  liner,  say  the  Lusitania." 

No  one  can  doubt  the  justice  of  much  of  this.  But  after 
all  Mr.  Adams  is  attacking  a  straw  man  of  his  own  creation. 
No  one  who  has  written  of  " broad  streets"  in  the  old 
metropolis  meant  to  compare  them  to  the  Champs  Elysees. 
Nor  is  it  contended  that  the  houses  were  of  magnificent 
proportion  in  comparison  with  St.  Peter's. 

I  am,  however,  inclined  to  question  his  conclusion  when 
he  so  positively  limits  the  extent  of  the  city.  The  site  to-day 
is  overgrown  with  a  dense  tangle  of  tropical  vegetation.  It 
would  take  amazing  activity,  and  a  host  of  machetemen 
to  reach — in  two  short  visits — definite  conclusions  on  this 
point.  Within  less  than  a  century  after  its  abandonment, 
Francois  Coreal  visited  the  site  of  Nombre  de  Dios,  and 
"de  son  ancienne  magnificence"  he  writes  he  could  find 

TEE   DATS   OF   THE   GEE  AT   TEADE  295 

nothing  but  its  name.  More  than  twice  that  time  has 
passed  since  Panama  Viejo  was  deserted.  Only  the  ruins 
of  some  of  the  stone  structures  are  visible  above  the  ground. 
Excavations  into  the  sub-soil  might  possibly — if  they  were 
extensive  enough — definitely  determine  the  limits  of  the 
old  town.  And  until  archaeologists  have  seriously  in- 
vestigated the  matter  we  can  not  put  much  weight  on  the 
opinions  of  chance  travellers  as  to  how  far  a  city  of  frame 
houses,  which  decay  so  rapidly  in  the  Tropics,  extended. 

Judged  by  the  New  York  or  London  of  to-day  old  Panama 
was  an  insignificant  place.  But  there  were  very  few  cities 
of  Europe  which  in  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  centuries 
had  streets  so  broad  and  regular.  There  was  certainly  none 
in  the  New  World  which  could  compare  with  it  for  com- 
merce or  wealth.  It  is  easier  to  believe  that  the  court 
of  the  Governor  was  a  magnificent  medieval  pageant  of  high 
colors,  fine  Oriental  silks  and  barbaric  jewelry  than  to  con- 
ceive of  the  place  through  which  so  much  wealth  passed 
as  a  contemptible  group  of  hovels.  Although,  in  our  own  day, 
the  best  houses  of  the  Klondike  towns  were  frame  shacks, 
the  courtesans  wore  gowns  from  Paris.  And  the  ruined, 
but  stately  tower  of  the  Cathedral  of  St.  Anastasius  shows 
beyond  dispute  that  the  metropolis  of  the  Americas  had 
reached  a  stage  of  civilization  far  in  advance  of  an  Alaskan 
mining  camp. 

After  all,  grandeur  is  a  relative  term,  and  no  one  who 
speaks  of  the  sordid  Italian  rapscallion  as  "The  Magnificent 
Borgia"  can  deny  the  same  adjective  to  the  "muy  leal  y  muy 
noble  Ciudad  de  Panama." 

Gage  says,  when  he  had  decided  to  leave  Panama:  "I 
had  my  choice  of  company  by  land  and  water  to  Portobel. 
But  considering  the  hardnesse  of  the  mountaines  by  land, 
I  resolved  to  goe  by  the  river  Chiagre;  and  so  at  midnight 
I  set  out  from  Panama  to  Venta  de  Cruzes,  which  is  ten  or 

296  PANAMA 

twelve  leagues  from  it.     The  way  is  thither  very  plaine  for 
the  most  part,  and  pleasant  in  the  morning  and  evening. 

"  Before  ten  of  the  clock,  we  got  to  Venta  de  Cruzes,  where 
lived  none  but  Mulatto's  and  Black-mores,  who  belong  unto 
the  flat-boat es  that  carry  the  merchandize  to  Portobel. 
There  I  had  very  good  entertainment  by  the  people,  who 
desired  me  to  preach  unto  them  the  next  Sabbath  day  and 
gave  me  twenty  Crownes  for  my  Sermon,  and  Procession. 
After  five  days  of  my  abode  there,  the  boats  set  out,  which 
were  much  stopped  in  their  passage  downe  the  river;  for  in 
some  places  we  found  the  water  very  low,  so  that  the  boats  ran 
upon  the  gravell;from  whence  with  poles  and  the  strength  of 
the  Black-mores  they  were  to  be  lifted  off  againe  .  .  .  Had 
not  it  pleased  God  to  send  us  after  the  first  week  plentifull 
raine,  which  made  the  water  to  run  downe  from  the  mountains 
and  fill  the  river  (which  otherwise  of  itself  is  very  shallow)  we 
might  have  had  a  tedious  and  long  passage;  but  after  twelve 
days  we  got  to  sea,  and  at  the  point  landed  at  the  Castle 
to  refresh  ourselves  for  halfe  a  day.  .  .  ."  After  telling 
of  the  dilapidated  condition  of  the  Castle  San  Lorenzo  at 
the  mouth  of  the  Chagres,  "which  in  my  time  wanted  great 
reparations,  and  was  ready  to  fall  downe  to  the  ground," 
he  continues,  "The  Govenour  of  the  Castle  was  a  notable 
wine-bibber,  who  plyed  us  with  that  liquor  the  time  that  we 
stayed  there,  and  wanting  a  Chaplain  for  himself e,  and 
Souldiers,  would  faine  have  had  me  stay  with  him;  but  greater 
matters  called  me  further,  and  so  I  tooke  my  leave  of  him, 
who  gave  us  some  dainties  of  fresh  meat,  fish  and  conserves 
and  so  dismissed  us.  We  got  out  to  the  open  sea,  discovering 
first  the  Escuedo  de  Veragua,  and  keeping  somewhat  close 
unto  the  land,  we  went  on  rowing  towards  Portobel,  till  the 
evening  which  was  Saturday  night;  then  we  cast  anchor 
behind  a  little  Island,  resolving  in  the  morning  to  enter  in 
Portobel.  The  Black-mores  all  that  night  kept  watch  for 

THE   DAYS    OF    THE    GEE  AT    TRADE  297 

fear  of  Hollenders,  whom  they  said  did  often  lie  in  wait  there 
abouts  for  the  boats  of  Chiagre;  but  we  passed  the  night 
safely  and  next  morning  got  to  Portobelo,  whose  haven 
we  observed  to  be  very  strong  with  two  Castles  at  the  mouth 
and  constant  watch  within  them,  and  another  called  St. 
Miguel  further  in  the  Port  .  .  . 

"When  I  came  into  the  Haven  I  was  sorry  to  see  that  as 
yet  the  Galeons  were  not  come  from  Spaine,  knowing  that 
the  longer  I  stayed  in  that  place,  greater  would  be  my 
charges.  Yet  I  comforted  myselfe  that  the  time  of  year 
was  come,  and  that  they  could  not  long  delay  their  coming. 
My  first  thoughts  were  of  taking  up  a  lodging,  which  at  that 
time  were  plentifull  and  cheape,  nay  some  were  offered  me 
for  nothing  with  this  caveat,  that  when  the  Galeons  did  come, 
I  must  either  leave  them,  or  pay  a  dear  rate  for  them.  A 
kind  Gentleman,  who  was  the  Kings  Treasurer,  falling  in 
discourse  with  me  promised  to  help  me,  that  I  might  be 
cheaply  lodged  even  when  the  ships  came,  and  lodgings 
were  at  the  highest  rate.  He,  interposing  his  authority, 
went  with  me  to  seeke  one,  which  at  the  time  of  the  fleets 
being  there,  might  continue  to  be  mine.  It  was  no  bigger 
than  would  containe  a  bed,  a  table,  a  stoole  or  two,  with 
roome  enough  beside  to  open  and  shut  the  doore,  and  they 
demanded  of  me  for  it  during  the  aforesaid  time  of  the  fleet, 
sixcore  Crownes,  which  commonly  is  a  fortnight.  For  the 
Towne  being  little,  and  the  Souldiers,  that  come  with  the 
Galeons  for  their  defence  at  least  four  or  five  thousand; 
besides  merchants  from  Peru,  from  Spain  and  many  other 
places  to  buy  and  sell,  is  cause  that  every  roome,  though 
never  so  small,  be  dear;  and  sometimes  all  the  lodgings  in 
the  Towne  are  few  enough  for  so  many  people,  which  at  that 
time  doe  meet  at  Portobel.  I  knew  a  Merchant  who  gave 
a  thousand  Crownes  for  a  shop  of  reasonable  bignesse,  to 
sell  his  wares  and  commodities  that  yeer  I  was  there,  for 

298  PANAMA 

fifteen  dales  only,  which  the  Fleet  continued  to  be  in  that 
Haven.  I  thought  it  much  for  me  to  give  the  sixcore 
Crownes  which  were  demanded  of  me  for  a  room,  which  was 
but  as  a  mouse  hole,  and  began  to  be  troubled,  and  told  the 
Kings  Treasurer  that  I  had  been  lately  robbed  at  sea,  and 
was  not  able  to  give  so  much,  and  bee  besides  at  charges  for 
my  diet,  which  I  feared  would  prove  as  much  more.  But 
not  a  farthing  would  be  abated  of  what  was  asked;  where 
upon  the  good  Treasurer,  pitying  me,  offered  to  the  man  of 
the  house  to  pay  him  threescore  Crowns  of  it,  if  so  be  that  I 
was  able  to  pay  the  rest,  which  I  must  doe,  or  else  lie  without 
in  the  street.  Yet  till  the  Fleet  did  come  I  would  not  enter 
into  this  deare  hole,  but  accepted  of  another  faire  lodging 
which  was  offered  me  for  nothing.  Whilst  I  thus  expected 
the  Fleets  coming,  some  money  and  offerings  I  got  for 
Masses,  and  for  two  Sermons  which  I  preached  at  fifteen 
Crownes  a  peece.  I  visited  the  Castles,  which  indeed 
seemed  unto  me  to  be  very  strong;  but  what  most  I  wondered 
at  was  to  see  the  requa's  of  Mules  which  came  thiether  from 
Panama,  laden  with  wedges  of  silver;  in  one  day  I  told  two 
hundred  mules  laden  with  nothing  else,  which  were  unladen  in 
the  publicke  Market-place,  so  that  there  the  heapes  of 
silver  wedges  lay  like  heaps  of  stones  in  the  street,  without 
any  feare  or  suspition  of  being  lost.  Within  ten  daies  the 
fleet  came,  consisting  of  eight  Galeons  and  ten  Merchant 
ships,  which  forced  me  to  run  to  my  hole.  It  was  a  wonder 
then  to  see  the  multitude  of  people  in  those  streets  which 
the  weeke  before  had  been  empty. 

"Then  began  the  price  of  all  things  to  rise,  a  fowl  to  be 
worth  twelve  Rialls,  which  in  the  mainland  within  I  had  often 
bought  for  one;  a  pound  of  beefe  then  was  worth  two  Rialls, 
whereas  I  had  in  other  places  thirteen  pounds  for  half  a 
Riall,  and  so  of  all  other  food  and  provisions,  which  was  so 
excessively  dear,  that  I  knew  not  how  to  live  but  by  fish  and 

TEE   DAYS    OF    THE   GEE  AT    TRADE  299 

Tortoises,  which  were  very  many,  and  though  somewhat 
deare,  yet  were  the  cheapest  meat  I  could  eate." 

Once  more  the  testimony  of  Frangois  Coreal  concurs  with 
that  of  the  English  writer. 

"At  the  time  of  the  arrival  of  the  Galleons,"  he  writes, 
"provisions  rise  to  an  extraordinary  price,  and  lodgings  are 
so  dear  during  the  twenty  or  twenty-five  days  when  they 
load  and  unload  the  merchandise  that  the  citizens  who  rent 
apartments  make  as  much  or  more  profit  than  those  who 
come  to  trade." 

"It  was  worth  seeing,"  Gage  continues,  "how  Merchants 
sold  their  commodities,  not  by  the  Ell  or  yard,  but  by  piece 
and  weight,  not  paying  in  coined  pieces  of  money,  but  in 
wedges,  which  were  weighed  and  taken  for  commodities. 
This  lasted  but  fifteen  dayes,  whilst  the  Galeons  were  lading 
with  wedges  of  silver  and  nothing  else;  so  that  for  those  fifteen 
daies  I  dare  boldly  say  and  avouch  that  in  the  world  there 
is  no  greater  Fair  than  that  of  Portobel,  between  the  Span- 
ish Merchants  and  those  of  Peru,  Panama,  and  other  places 
there  about." 

Here  Gage  breaks  off  his  narrative  for  a  long  theological 
discourse.  One  might  say  that  having  given  a  description 
of  the  physical  aspects  of  Puerto  Bello,  he  adds  a  picture  of 
the  psychology  of  the  town  in  his  times. 

The  point,  about  which  most  of  his  own  religious  doubts 
centered,  was  the  doctrine  of  Transubstantiation.  This 
dogma  of  the  church  had  long  troubled  him  and  it  was 
especially  on  this  matter  that  he  hoped  to  find  light  in  Rome, 
in  the  hope  of  which  he  had  risked  the  anger  of  his  superiors 
and  a  so  dangerous  journey. 

During  the  course  of  a  mass  which  he  celebrated  during 
these  fifteen  days  an  incident  occurred  which  he  discusses  at 
length  and  which  was  the  cause  of  his  conversion  to  Protes- 
tantism. Just  before  the  climax  of  the  mystery,  the  priest 

300  PANAMA 

steps  back  from  the  altar  and  repeats  a  prayer  of  self- 
consecration  called  the  "  Memento."  At  this  point  in  the 
ritual,  Gage  heard  a  slight  noise  on  the  altar  and  opening  his 
eyes  he  saw  a  mouse  running  away  with  the  consecrated  wafer. 

Gage  tells  us  that  for  a  moment  he  was  immensely 
frightened  for  his  own  safety.  As  an  Englishman  he  was 
tolerated  on  account  of  his  calling,  but  there  were  many 
Spaniards  in  those  superstitious  days  who  firmly  believed  that 
England  was  an  annex  of  Hell  and  that  all  men  of  that  race 
were  lineal  descendants  of  the  Father  of  Lies.  To  make 
known  what  had  happened  would  surely  cause  a  great 
sensation,  and  very  likely  the  fanatical  mob  might  hold  him 
responsible  for  the  incident  which  all  would  regard  as 
an  appalling  sacrilege.  On  the  other  hand,  the  one  sin 
which  the  Inquisition  held  to  be  the  most  heinous  was  any 
tampering  with  the  sacraments.  In  such  matters  they  were 
frigid  formalists  and  no  excuse  counterbalanced  the  slightest 
violation  of  the  letter  of  the  ritual.  If  Gage  had  gone  on 
with  the  ceremony  and  anyone  had  seen  the  accident,  he 
would  run  a  very  good  chance  of  the  stake.  He  decided 
that  the  populace  was  less  to  be  feared  than  the  Inquisition. 
He  stopped  the  mass  and  calling  for  aid  gave  chase  to  the 
mouse.  The  frightened  animal  dropped  the  "hostie"  and  es- 
caped. The  sacred  wafer  was  found  on  the  floor  of  the  chancel. 

As  Gage  had  foreseen  there  was  a  great  hue  and  cry.  There 
were  fasts  and  special  services  to  propitiate  the  wrath,  which 
every  one  felt  the  Most  High  must  feel  at  this  sacrilege. 
However  Gage  escaped  with  his  life  and  had  time  to  think 
the  thing  out.  He  concluded:  "Now  here  I  knew  that  this 
Mouse  had  fed  upon  some  substance,  or  else  how  could 
the  markes  of  the  teeth  so  plainely  appear?  But  no  Papist 
will  bee  willing  to  answer  that  it  fed  upon  the  substance  of 
Christs  Body,  ergo,  by  good  consequence  it  followes  that  it 
fed  upon  the  substance  of  bread:  and  so  Transubstantiation 


here  in  my  judgment  was  confuted  by  a  Mouse;  which  mean 
and  base  creature  God  chose  to  convince  mee  of  my  former 
errours,  and  made  mee  now  resolve  upon  what  many  yeeres 
before  I  had  doubted,  that  certainly  the  point  of  Transub- 
stantiation  taught  by  the  Church  of  Rome  is  most  damnable 
and  erroneous." 

While  Gage's  logic  will  not  be  very  convincing  to  the 
modern  mind,  it  gives  us  an  interesting  insight  into  how  the 
men  of  his  day  thought.  He  changed  his  religious  faith  be- 
cause a  miracle  did  not  happen.  A  skeptic  of  our  day  might 
be  converted  if  he  saw  lightning  come  down  from  Heaven 
and  blast  such  an  impious  mouse.  Gage's  mind  worked  in  a 
manner  exactly  opposite.  His  whole  philosophy  was  changed, 
and  his  book  shows  that  he  thought  earnestly,  because  the 
"Natural  Order"  was  not  interfered  with  as  he  thought 
he  had  a  right  to  expect. 

Having  described  his  conversion,  he  returns  to  the  narra- 
tive : 

"Don  Carlos  de  Ybarra,  who  was  the  Admirall  of  that 
Fleet,  made  great  haste  to  bee  gone;  which  made  the  Mer- 
chants buy  and  sell  apace,  and  lade  the  ships  with  silver 
wedges;  whereof  I  was  glad,  for  the  more  they  laded,  the  lesse 
I  unladed  my  purse  with  buying  deare  provisions,  and 
sooner  I  hoped  to  be  out  of  that  unhealthy  place,  which  it- 
self e  is  very  hot,  and  subject  to  breed  Feavers,  nay  death, 
if  the  feet  bee  not  preserved  from  wetting  when  it  raineth; 
but  especially  when  the  Fleet  is  there,  it  is  an  open  grave 
ready  to  swallow  in  part  of  that  numerous  people,  which 
at  that  time  resort  unto  it,  as  was  seene  the  yeare  that  I  was 
there,  when  about  five  hundred  of  the  Soldiers,  Merchants, 
and  Mariners,  what  with  Feavers,  what  with  Flux  caused 
by  too  much  eating  of  fruit  and  drinking  of  water,  what  with 
other  disorders  lost  their  lives,  finding  it  to  bee  to  them 
not  Porto  bello,  but  Porto  malo." 



THE  effort  of  the  Spanish  government  to  exclude  all  for- 
eigners from  any  share  in  this  fat  traffic  was,  of  course,  fore- 
doomed to  failure.  In  fact,  the  rigor  with  which  they  enforced 
the  prohibitions  against  interlopers  was  the  immediate  cause 
of  great  loss. 

Early  in  the  latter  half  of  the  sixteenth  century  an  English 
trading  vessel  approached  the  harbor  of  Vera  Cruz  in  Mexico. 
They  sent  a  request  to  the  governor  for  permission  to  enter 
and  sell  their  cargo.  That  worthy  gentleman,  believing  that 
if  he  refused  to  admit  them,  they  would  surely  smuggle  their 
goods  ashore,  invited  them  to  drop  anchor,  and,  having  them 
under  the  guns  of  his  fort,  confiscated  their  ship  and  mer- 
chandise and  for  a  while  held  the  crew  in  prison. 

One  of  the  English  sailors — the  son  of  a  Protestant  min- 
ister and  the  oldest  of  twelve  brothers — was  Francis  Drake. 
He  finally  made  his  way  back  to  Europe  and  spent  consider- 
able time  in  trying  to  get  some  restitution  from  the  Spanish 
government.  Failing  in  this,  he  decided  to  collect  what  was 
due  him — and  all  possible  interest — and  at  the  same  time 
revenge  himself  for  his  foul  treatment,  by  force. 

He  made  two  piratical  trips  to  the  Indies  in  a  small,  fast 
vessel,  the  Swan.  His  prizes  were  insignificant.  He  made 
so  little  noise  on  these  cruises  that  it  is  hard  to  find  any 
record  of  them.  But  his  main  object  was  to  secure  informa- 

In  1570  he  secured  recognition  in  the  English  Court  and 


Queen  Elizabeth  granted  him  "Letters  of  Marque"  to  cruise 
against  the  Spaniards.  It  is  possible  that  he  may  have  had 
similar  commissions  for  his  earlier  cruises — the  point  is 
uncertain — but  from  now  on  he  was  a  reputable  " privateer" 
and  not  a  "pirate."  It  is  a  distinction  with  no  difference 
except  of  social  position.  A  "privateer"  could  be  a  national 
hero,  while  a  "pirate"  could  be  the  hero  only  of  "the  lower 
classes."  The  former  had  the  entree  to  Court,  the  latter 
had  to  be  contented  with  the  adulation  of  cheap  ale-houses. 

What  England  thought  of  Drake  is  shown  by  a  little 
volume  published  in  1653  entitled  "Sir  Francis  Drake 
Revived,  Who  is  or  may  be  a  Pattern  to  stirre  up  all  Heroicke 
and  active  Spirits  of  these  Times,  to  benefit  their  Country 
and  eternize  their  Names  by  like  Noble  Attempts.  .  .  . 
Calling  upon  this  Dull  and  Effeminate  Age  to  follow  his 
Noble  Steps  for  Gold  and  Silver." 

Backed  by  his  new  commission  he  fitted  out  a  more 
formidable  expedition.  A  small  one,  indeed,  for  the  work  in 
hand,  but  well  planned.  In  the  spring  of  1572,  he  was  ready 
to  sail,  having  his  old  ship,  The  Swan,  and  a  new  one,  The 

"Having  in  both  of  them,"  writes  the  author  of  the  book 
already  referred  to,  "of  men  and  boyes  seventy-three,  all 
voluntarily  assembled,  of  which  the  eldest  was  fifty,  all  the 
rest  under  thirty.  .  .  ."  The  ships  were  "both  richly 
furnished,  with  victuals  and  apparell  for  a  whole  yeer;  and 
no  lesse  heedfully  provided  of  all  manner  of  Munition, 
Artillery,  Artificers,  stuffe  and  tooles,  that  were  requisite 
for  such  a  Man  of  war  in  such  an  attempt,  but  especially 
having  three  dainty  Pinnases,  made  in  Plimouih,  taken 
asunder  all  in  peices  and  stowed  aboard,  to  be  set  up  as 
occasion  served." 

They  sailed  without  mishap  to  an  uninhabited  harbor  on 
the  coast  of  the  Isthmus  about  half  way  between  Nombre 

304  PANAMA 

de  Dios  and  Carthagena,  which  they  reached  on  the  12th  of 
July.  Drake  had  visited  the  place  on  one  of  his  former 
cruises  in  the  Swan  and  had  chosen  it  for  a  base  of  opera- 
tions. But  on  landing  they  found  a  sheet  of  lead  nailed  to 
a  tree  "greater  than  any  four  men,  joyning  hands,  could 
fathom  about."  On  this  piece  of  lead  was  scratched  this 
message : 

"Captain  Drake,  if  you  fortune  to  come  to  this  Port, 
make  hast  away:  For  the  Spanyards,  which  you  had  with 
you  here  the  last  year,  have  bewrayed  this  place,  and 
taken  away  all  that  you  left  here.  I  departed  from  hence 
this  present  7.  of  luly,  1572. 

"Your  very  loving  friend 

"lohn  Garret." 

This  warning  caused  Drake  to  hunt  out  some  other 
secluded  cove — the  coast  abounds  in  them — and  there  he 
took  out  his  "three  dainty  Pinnases"  and  had  them  "set 
up"  by  his  artificers. 

Very  little  time  was  lost  before  he  was  under  way  for  his 
famous  attempt  on  Nombre  de  Dios.  It  must  be  remembered 
that  this  was  the  first  enterprise  of  its  kind.  The  English 
had  not  yet  become  accustomed  to  attacking  fortified  Span- 
ish towns  with  a  handful  of  men.  These  young  men — all 
"under  thirty,"  however  stout  their  hearts,  must  have  felt 
it  an  exceedingly  desperate  venture. 

During  the  night  the  three  Pinnases — most  of  the  crew 
hiding  in  the  bottom — slipped  into  the  harbor.  One  of  their 
number  who  could  speak  Spanish  answered  the  hail  from  the 
fort  saying  that  they  were  from  Cartagena.  And  so,  getting 
safely  past  the  cannon,  they  attacked  the  town.  A  small 
number  of  them  stayed  to  guard  the  boats  and  the  main 
body  quickly  mastered  the  place.  There  was  very  little 
fighting.  The  only  resistance  was  in  the  Plaza  where,  our 


author  writes,  "the  Souldiers  and  such  as  were  joyned  with 
them  presented  us  with  a  jolly  hot  volley  of  shot."  But  the 
first  charge  dispersed  this  force. 

It  is  hard  from  the  chronicles  to  determine  who  were 
more  afraid,  the  townspeople  or  the  invaders.  The  English 
apparently  could  not  believe  that  they  had  taken  the  city 
so  easily.  As  they  met  no  large  portion  of  the  garrison,  they 
supposed  that  they  were  lying  somewhere  in  ambush.  A 
rumor  started  that  an  attack  was  being  made  on  the  boats 
and  that  their  retreat  was  cut  off.  Only  with  great  effort 
could  Drake  prevent  a  stampede.  He  alone  kept  his  head 
and,  having  gone  to  so  much  trouble,  he  was  not  going  to 
be  frightened  into  dropping  his  booty.  Sending  some  of  his 
men  to  support  the  guard  on  the  water  front,  and  posting 
sentries  in  various  places,  he  led  the  main  body  of  his  men 
to  the  king's  treasure  house,  which  they  broke  open  and  there 
"we  saw  a  huge  heape  of  silver,  .  .  .  being  a  pile  of  bars  of 
silver,  of  (as  neere  as  we  could  guesse)  seventy  foot  in  length, 
of  ten  foot  in  breadth,  and  twelve  foot  in  height,  piled  up 
against  the  wall,  each  barre  was  between  thirty-five  and  forty 
pound  in  weight." 

But  at  this  juncture,  Drake,  who  had  been  wounded  in 
that  "jolly  hot  volley  of  shot,"  fainted  from  loss  of  blood. 
Panic  at  once  fell  on  the  privateers  and,  carrying  their  uncon- 
scious leader  to  the  boats,  they  made  off.  Their  retreat  was 
so  hurried,  in  fact,  that  they  forgot  some  of  the  sentries, 
who  had  to  swim  out  to  their  boats.  The  Spanish  garrison, 
instead  of  having  rallied  to  attack  them,  had  not  yet  stopped 

What  Drake  said  to  his  men  when  he  recovered  conscious- 
ness and  found  that  they  had  let  this  rich  booty  slip  through 
his  fingers  is  not  recorded. 

They  returned  to  the  secret  harbor  where  they  had  left 
their  ships,  and  very  shortly  set  out  again,  this  time  for 

306  PANAMA 

Cartagena.  But  that  city,  much  more  strongly  fortified  and 
garrisoned  than  Nombre  de  Dios,  had  been  warned,  and 
Drake's  force  was  not  strong  enough  to  attempt  to  take  it 
by  assault.  He  contented  himself  with  cutting  out  some  of 
the  shipping  from  under  the  guns  of  the  fortress  and  sailed 
away.  For  a  while  he  lay  quiet  in  his  secluded  headquarters 
hoping  that  the  Spaniards  would  think  he  had  left  the  coast 
and  so  relax  their  vigilance. 

But  the  fame  of  his  attack  on  Nombre  de  Dios  had  spread 
through  the  Isthmus  and  gained  him  unexpected  allies.  The 
Indians  of  the  eastern  end  of  the  Isthmus  had  never,  since 
the  days  of  Vasco  Nunez  de  Balboa,  been  at  peace  with  the 
Spaniards.  The  English  were  evidently  enemies  of  their 
enemies,  and  therefore  their  friends.  Another  element  of 
the  population,  as  bitter  against  the  Spaniards  as  the  In- 
dians, were  the  "Cimarrones."  The  origin  of  this  word  has 
not  been  satisfactorily  explained.  It  is  spelt  in  a  dozen 
different  ways  in  the  old  books.  It  was  the  name  given  by 
the  Spaniards  to  the  escaped  negro  slaves,  who  lived  banded 
together  in  the  jungle.  The  Indians  seem  to  have  welcomed 
these  fugitives  from  the  Spanish  injustice  and  to  have  helped 
them  in  establishing  villages  and  in  planting  bananas  and 
plantains.  These  groups  of  freed  slaves  were  even  a  greater 
menace  to  the  colonists  than  the  Indians.  Their  chiefs 
visited  Drake's  headquarters  and  entered  into  an  alliance 
with  him. 

Together  with  these  negroes,  Drake  planned  an  adventure 
even  more  daring  than  his  assault  on  Nombre  de  Dios.  The 
native  spies  brought  word  that  a  ship  had  come  from  Peru 
to  Panama  loaded  down  with  treasure.  Drake,  with  eighteen 
Englishmen  and  a  mixed  company  of  Indians  and  Cimarrones 
started  inland  to  intercept  the  treasure  train  on  its  way 
across  the  Isthmus. 

It  was  on  this  trip  that  Drake  got  his  first  sight  of  the 


Pacific.  A  Cimarrone  brought  him  to  a  hilltop,  very  prob- 
ably within  the  limits  of  our  Canal  Zone,  from  which  by 
climbing  a  tall  tree  he  could  see  the  Ocean  to  the  south. 
The  chronicle  says  that  he  fell  on  his  knees  and  prayed 
Almighty  God  to  grant  him  life  until  he  could  sail  in  those 
waters  on  an  English  ship.  One  of  the  men  who  was  with 
him  at  this  time  and  who  also  saw  the  Pacific  was  John 
Oxenham,  of  whom  we  will  hear  more. 

Near  this  place  there  was  a  large  fortified  camp  of  the 
Cimarrones.  Drake  and  his  men  stayed  there  while  one  of 
the  negroes,  passing  himself  off  as  a  slave,  entered  Panama 
and  secured  definite  information  about  the  time  set  for  the 
departure  of  the  treasure  train.  On  the  appointed  night — 
most  of  the  transportation  was  done  at  night  to  avoid  the 
excessive  heat — Drake  ambushed  his  men  on  both  sides  of 
the  trail.  They  had  all  put  their  shirts  on  outside  their 
breast  plates  so  as  to  be  easily  distinguishable  in  the  dark. 
The  instructions  were  to  lie  quiet  until  the  mule  train  had 
passed  and  so  cut  off  any  chance  of  its  retreat  to  Panama. 
The  force  was  strung  out  for  a  considerable  distance,  each 
white  man  accompanied  by  two  or  three  natives.  And  so 
they  sat  in  the  obscurity  of  the  jungle  and  waited.  Doubt- 
lessly the  mosquitoes  made  things  uncomfortable  for  them. 
And  in  their  armor  they  must  have  found  the  heat  oppressive. 

Presently  the  tinkle  of  mule-bells  came  from  the  direction 
of  Panama.  In  a  few  minutes  a  man  on  foot  came  into  the 
sight  of  the  first  Englishman.  This  cut-throat  seems  to  have 
drunk  too  copiously  of  the  insidious  liquor  which  the  Indians 
brew  from  sugar-cane.  Instead  of  obeying  orders,  he 
abruptly  stood  up.  His  Cimarrone  comrades  pulled  him 
down  again,  but  it  was  too  late.  The  Spaniard,  scared  by 
the  apparition  beyond  the  power  to  cry  out,  ran  full  speed 
back  toward  the  city.  The  tinkling  of  the  mule-bells 
ceased.  The  convoy  halted  to  listen  to  the  wild  story  of  a 

308  PANAMA 

white-robed  ghost  who  had  suddenly  faced  the  foot  pas- 
senger. The  Spanish  captain  did  not  believe  in  ghosts,  but 
still  he  could  not  explain  a  white-robed  figure  on  the  hillside. 
He  probably  did  not  suspect  that  Drake  would  have  the 
audacity  to  come  so  near  Panama,  but  anyhow  discretion 
was  an  easy  virtue;  there  was  a  train  of  mules  loaded  with 
grain  behind  him.  It  would  be  just  as  well  to  let  them 
go  first.  So  he  ordered  them  to  pass  on,  and  the  tinkling  of 
mule-bells  was  heard  again. 

Meanwhile  Drake  and  those  of  his  followers  who  were 
sober  had  no  idea  of  what  had  happened.  This  time  every- 
thing took  place  according  to  schedule.  The  mule-train  was 
allowed  to  proceed  until  the  last  one's  retreat  was  cut  off. 
Drake  gave  the  signal.  "St.  George  and  Merrie  England" 
rang  out  through  the  jungle  and  almost  without  a  blow  these 
doughty  warriors  of  Good  Queen  Bess  had  captured  several 
dozen  bushels  of  fodder. 

One  almost  hopes  that  Drake  hung  the  drunken  fool  who 
spoiled  it  all.  Such  a  daring  venture — even  if  it  was  robbery 
— ought  not  to  be  defeated  by  such  a  banal  blunder. 

Balked  once  more  of  his  loot  Drake  returned  to  his  head- 
quarters and  knowing  that  now  the  country  would  be  thor- 
oughly aroused,  he  threw  off  the  mask.  He  went  again  to 
Cartagena,  cut  up  some  more  shipping  in  that  harbor, 
exchanged  insulting  pleasantries  with  the  governor,  and 
cruised  up  and  down  the  coast,  doing  all  the  damage  he  could. 

But  he  was  not  willing  to  leave  without  striking  some  big 
game.  In  March,  1573,  he  was  joined  by  a  crew  of  French 
corsairs  and,  once  more  in  alliance  with  the  Cimarrones,  he 
planned  to  intercept  some  of  the  treasure  coming  across  the 
Isthmus.  This  time,  instead  of  penetrating  so  far  into  the 
interior,  he  laid  his  ambush  just  outside  of  Nombre  de  Dios. 
I  quote  the  narrative  from  another  Drake  book,  "The 
English  Hero,"  published  in  1756. 


"Coming  within  a  Mile  of  the  Highway  they  refresh'd 
themselves  all  Night,  hearing  many  Carpenters  working  on 
the  Ships  (because  of  the  great  Heat  by  Day)  at  Nombre  de 
Dios;  next  Morning,  April  1,  1573,  they  extreamly  rejoiced 
to  hear  the  Mules  coming  with  a  great  Noise  of  Bells,  hoping, 
though  they  were  formerly  disappointed,  they  should  now 
have  more  Gold  and  Silver  than  they  could  carry  away,  as 
accordingly  happened,  for  soon  after  there  came  three 
Recoes,  one  of  fifty  Mules,  and  two  more  of  seventy  in  each 
Company,  every  one  carrying  three  hundred  Pound  Weight 
of  Silver,  amounting  in  all  to  about  thirty  Tun;  they  soon 
prepared  to  go  into  the  Highway  hearing  the  Bells,  and  seized 
upon  the  first  and  last  Mules,  to  try  what  Metal  they  carried. 
These  three  Recoes  had  a  Guard  of  about  forty-five  Soldiers, 
fifteen  to  each,  which  caused  the  Exchange  of  some  Shot 
and  Arrows  at  first,  wherein  the  French  captain  was  sorely 
wounded  with  Hail  Shot  in  his  Belly,  and  one  Symeron  slain; 
but  the  Soldiers  retiring  for  more  Help,  left  their  Mules,  and 
the  English  took  pains  to  ease  some  of  them  of  their  Burdens 
and,  being  weary,  contented  themselves  with  as  many  Bars 
and  Wedges  of  Gold  as  they  could  well  carry  away,  burying 
above  fifty  Tun  of  Silver  in  the  Sands,  and  under  old  Trees : 
having  in  two  Hours  ended  their  Business,  they  prepared  to 

It  is  considerable  of  a  tax  on  the  imagination  to  under- 
stand how,  when  the  mules  only  carried  thirty  tons  of  silver, 
the  English  buried  fifty  tons  of  it.  The  story  is  further  com- 
plicated by  the  fact  that  if  they  were  within  sound  of  the 
carpenter's  hammers  in  the  harbor  it  is  hardly  probable  that 
they  were  allowed  two  solid  uninterrupted  hours  for  their 
"business."  It  would  further  be  an  amazing  feat  to  bury 
two  hundred  mule  loads  of  anything  in  so  short  a  time.  This 
is  a  fairly  good  sample  of  some  of  the  gush  which  the  English 
pass  out  as  history  of  their  naval  heroes. 

310  PANAMA 

However,  although  most  of  the  details  of  this  story  as 
given  in  "The  English  Hero"  are  incredible,  the  fact  is  well 
established  that  Drake  made  this  raid  successfully  and  that 
his  company,  after  many  more  adventures,  regained  their 
ships  with  all  the  gold  they  could  carry. 

For  three  months  more  he  hung  about  in  those  waters  and 
early  in  August,  1573,  started  back  for  Plymouth.  Besides 
his  raids  on  the  mainland  he  had  captured  over  a  hundred 
Spanish  merchant  vessels.  His  reception  in  England  was 

He  at  once  set  about  organizing  an  expedition  into  the 
Pacific.  But  his  wish  to  be  the  first  Englishman  to  sail  in 
that  Ocean  was  forestalled  by  Oxenham,  who  had  been  with 
him  when  he  first  saw  the  new  sea.  Oxenham  collected  a 
crew  of  adventurers  in  1575  and  sailed  again  to  the  Isthmus. 
With  the  aid  of  the  Indians  and  Cimarrones  he  crossed  the 
mountains  by  very  nearly  the  same  route  as  Balboa,  and, 
launching  out  on  the  Gulf  of  San  Miguel  in  native  dug-outs, 
soon  captured  a  small  sailing-vessel;  getting  aboard  of  their 
prize  they  cruised  about  until  they  encountered  a  larger  ship. 
They  repeated  the  process  several  times,  until  at  last  they 
captured  the  famous  "navio  del  oro,"  the  "ship  of  gold," 
which  brought  up  the  bullion  from  the  Peruvian  mines. 
This  was  the  first  time  an  enemy  had  threatened  the  Span- 
iards in  the  Pacific,  and  they  were  entirely  unprepared  to 
protect  themselves.  So  at  first  Oxenham  had  easy  success. 
But  finally,  stirred  up  by  the  loss  of  their  richest  treasure 
ship,  the  Spaniards  rallied.  Oxenham  had  a  series  of  mis- 
haps, bad  weather  and  sickness,  his  overbearing  manner  had 
alienated  the  native  allies,  and  his  raid  came  to  a  disastrous 
end.  Those  of  his  company  who  did  not  die  of  famine  or 
disease  were  captured  and  either  executed  in  Panama  or 
sent  in  chains  to  Spain.  Most  of  the  treasure  was  recovered. 

On  November  15,  1577,  Drake  sailed  from  England  again. 


He  cleared  the  Straits  of  Magellan,  ten  months  later — 
September,  1578 — sacked  half  a  dozen  towns  on  the  west 
coast  of  South  America — why  he  did  not  "attempt"  Panama 
is  not  clear — collected  an  immense  amount  of  booty,  and 
tailed  up  the  Californian  coast  to  the  43°  North.  Then 
turning  south  again  he  crossed  the  Pacific  and  rounding  the 
•Cape  of  Good  Hope,  brought  the  Golden  Hind  to  anchor  in 
Plymouth  in  September,  1580. 

Five  years  later  war  was  declared  with  Spain,  and  Drake 
— now  an  admiral  in  the  regular  navy — sailed  from  Plymouth 
with  twenty-five  warships.  He  landed  at  Santo  Domingo 
and  spared  the  city  in  consideration  of  25,000  ducats.  He 
then  visited  Cartagena  and  extracted  a  ransom  of  145,000 

Here  news  of  the  outfitting  of  the  great  Armada  in  Spain 
caused  him  to  be  called  home.  So,  after  only  six  months  of 
pillage  in  the  West  Indies,  he  returned  reluctantly  to  Eng- 
land. It  was  two  years  before  the  Armada  really  materialized. 

For  several  years  after  this  Drake  was  idle,  but  in  1595 
he  again  went  to  sea.  On  August  28th  he  set  sail  with  six 
government  warships,  twenty-one  privateers  and  2,500  men. 
He  met  his  first  serious  repulse  in  Puerto  Rico.  A  desperate 
attempt  to  capture, the  fortress  of  San  Juan  failed  disas- 
trously, and  he  sailed  to  the  mainland.  On  the  whole  it  was 
an  unsuccessful  voyage.  The  cities  he  captured  could  not 
or  would  not  pay  the  ransoms  he  demanded.  One  after 
another  he  was  forced  to  burn  Rancheria,  Rio  de  le  Hacha, 
Santa  Marta  and  Nombre  de  Dios.  They  were  all  scantily 
fortified  and  helpless  before  his  strong  armament.  The 
captains  of  his  men-of-war  may  have  been  satisfied  with  the 
glory,  but  it  was  very  poor  picking  for  his  twenty-one  priv- 
ateers. Another  setback  came  to  him  on  the  Isthmus. 
From  Nombre  de  Dios  he  tried  to  send  a  land  force  across 
to  sack  Panama.  They  became  hopelessly  entangled  in  the 

312  PANAMA 

jungle  and  were  beaten  back  more  by  the  dense  vegetation 
and  swamps  than  by  the  Spaniards,  who  did  little  beyond 
butchering  the  stragglers. 

From  Nombre  de  Dios  Drake  sailed  to  Puerto  Bello.  The 
fortifications  of  that  harbor  were  not  so  formidable  as  at 
San  Juan  de  Puerto  Rico,  but  still  there  was  a  chance  for  a 
real  fight.  But  on  the  28th  of  January,  1596,  just  as  the 
English  were  about  to  attack  the  city,  Sir  Francis  Drake 
died  in  his  cabin.  He  was  buried  in  the  mouth  of  the  harbor. 
The  fleet  having  lost  its  leader,  lost  heart  as  well,  and  sailed 
back  to  England. 

Drake  was  a  great  sea-captain.  He  seems  to  have  suc- 
ceeded somewhat  better  in  the  adventures  he  undertook 
with  small  forces  than  when  acting  as  admiral  of  a  large  fleet. 
He  was  entirely  free  from  the  wanton  cruelty  which  clouded 
the  brilliant  achievements  of  the  buccaneers.  He  was  not 
at  heart  a  pirate.  Although  he  always  harbored  a  bitter 
resentment  against  the  Spaniards  for  their  mistreatment  of 
him  at  Vera  Cruz,  still  he  seems  to  have  generally  treated 
his  captives  as  prisoners  of  war.  Some  of  his  raids  were  com- 
mitted in  times  of  nominal  peace  between  his  sovereign  and 
the  Spanish  throne,  but  he  seems  to  have  always  thought 
of  himself  as  engaged  in  honorable  warfare.  When  a  man 
has  so  many  real  achievements  to  his  credit,  it  is  rather  dis- 
tressing to  read  of  the  fantastic  and  unreal  adventures 
ascribed  to  him  by  his  countrymen. 

But  it  is  impossible  to  exaggerate  the  fear  which  his  name 
carried  throughout  the  Spanish  colonies. 

Mr.  G.  Jenner  has  translated  some  interesting  sections 
relating  to  him  from  the  works  of  a  Spanish  historian,  Fray 
Pedro  Simon.  This  author  is  very  much  more  temperate 
in  his  language  than  most  of  the  Spaniards  who  mention 
Drake,  and  the  quotations  give  a  good  example  of  what  the 
more  intelligent  people  of  Latin- America  thought  of  him. 


After  the  raids  on  the  Isthmus  in  1572  and  1573,  this 
writer  says:  " Drake  returned  to  London,  where  he  arrived 
with  much  plunder  after  a  prosperous  voyage.  He  was 
received  there  with  the  applause  that  commonly  gratifies 
wealth,  and  even  the  queen  favored  him  with  excessive 
demonstrations  and  greater  courtesy  than  became  her  royal 
person.  After  all,  however,  that  was  woman-like  and  due 
somewhat  to  her  covetousness  and  to  the  desire  of  putting 
her  arms  up  to  the  elbow  into  the  great  plunder  brought  home 
by  the  Protestant." 

After  having  made  his  voyage  of  circumnavigation,  Fray 
Simon  says  that  Drake  bought  an  estate  and  attempted  to 
settle  down,  "but  all  this  was  like  drinking  salt  water,  for, 
as  we  shall  see,  the  thirst  of  his  covetousness  was  in  no  way 
quenched.  .  .  . 

"Considering  the  condition  of  man  degraded  by  sin  and 
incapable  of  resisting  temptation  of  greed,  we  need  not 
wonder  that  the  acquisition  of  goods  should  lead  to  the  desire 
to  add  to  them,  especially  amongst  those  who  know  neither 
law  nor  God.  .  .  ." 

Of  the  1586  expedition  he  writes:  "For  thirty  days 
the  heretical  pirate  held  the  city  (Santo  Domingo),  his 
Lutheran  ministers  preaching  their  creed,  and  constant 
festivities  going  on.  The  Protestant  would  send  from  time 
to  time  for  some  of  the  fugitives,  with  whom  he  conversed 
in  jovial  and  conceited  tones,  jeering  at  the  fear  of  our  people, 
who  had  allowed  his  fatigued  and  harassed  soldiers  to  take 
possession  of  their  town  without  resistance,  and  attacking 
our  Christian  religion  to  justify  his  heresies  and  robberies." 
During  the  occupation  of  Cartagena,  on  the  same  expedition, 
he  writes  that  "the  images  painted  on  the  walls  of  these 
churches  were  exposed  to  pitiful  insults,  and  the  tenets  of 
Luther  were  preached  on  the  terraces  of  the  Government 

314  PANAMA 

When  he  gets  to  the  last  expedition  of  Drake,  the  good 
father  becomes  even  more  indignantly  eloquent.  After 
describing  the  burning  of  Rio  de  la  Hacha,  Santa  Marta  and 
Nombre  de  Dios,  he  says:  'Of  all  his  wickedness  the  one 
he  indulged  in  with  especial  satisfaction  was  the  use  of  fire, 
as  if  he  were  preparing  himself  for  the  flames  that  would 
torture  him  in  hell.  .  .  ."  Describing  his  death  before 
Puerto  Bello,  which  he,  apparently  without  any  reason,  as- 
cribes to  poison,  he  writes:  "Then  his  tongue  congealed:  his 
mouth  became  scarlet  and  distorted,  giving  issue  (if  that  be 
the  exit)  to  that  lost  soul  that  hastened  direct  to  hell." 

But  the  death  of  Drake  by  no  means  relieved  the  Spanish 
colonies  from  the  terror  of  the  "heretical  pirates."  In  a  very 
rare  book  published  in  London  in  1740  called  "A  geograph- 
ical Description  of  Coasts,  Harbors  and  Sea  Ports  of  the 
Spanish  West  Indies"  by  D.  G.  Carranza,  there  is  an  appen- 
dix in  which  Captain  William  Parker  describes  his  assault 
on  Puerto  Bello.  He  was  one  of  the  first  upon  whom  fell 
the  mantle  of  the  great  Sir  Francis. 

He  sailed  from  Plymouth  in  1601  with  two  ships,  two 
shallops,  a  pinnace  and  two  hundred  men.  He  touched  the 
mainland  first  in  what  is  now  Venezuela,  near  the  spot  where 
Las  Casas  tried  to  found  his  knightly  colony;  here  Parker 
picked  up  a  load  of  pearls  valued  at  2,500  pesos.  Then  off 
the  Cape  de  la  Vela  he  overhauled  a  Portuguese  slave-ship 
for  which  he  accepted  a  ransom  of  another  2,500  pesos. 

On  the  7th  of  February,  1602,  he  reached  Puerto  Bello. 
This  large  harbor  was  protected  by  two  formidable  forts  on 
each  side  of  the  entrance  which,  as  Thomas  Gage  said,  could 
with  their  cannon  "reach  and  command  one  another."  "The 
Place  where  my  Shippes  roade,"  says  Parker,  "beinge  the 
rock  where  Sir  Francis  Drake  his  coffin  was  throwne  over- 

By  the  time-worn  trick  of  hailing  the  sentries  in  Spanish 

PRIVATE  ESS   AND   PIE  ATE '8  315 

he  got  his  little  fleet  past  the  forts  during  the  night  and  at 
once  began  the  attack.  The  first  party  ashore  met  with  an 
even  jollier  "hot  volley  of  shot"  than  that  which  was  pre- 
sented to  Drake  in  Nombre  de  Dios.  It  killed  or  wounded 
all  but  nine  of  the  English. 

"But,"  says  the  Captain — and  he  seems  to  have  been  a 
very  pious  man — "  God  did  prosper  our  Proceedings  mightilie, 
for  the  first  two  shott  which  went  out  from  us  shot  Malendus 
(the  Governor  of  Puerto  Bello)  through  his  Targett,  and 
went  throughe  both  his  Armes,  and  the  other  Shott  hurted 
the  Corporall  of  the  Fielde,  whereupon  they  all  retired  to 
their  House,  which  they  made  good  untill  it  was  almost 

But  when  all  his  men  had  come  up,  Parker  was  able  to 
drive  them  out  of  their  last  stronghold  and  was  free  to  sack 
the  city.  They  gathered  10,000  ducats  worth  of  spoil.  If 
they  had  arrived  a  week  earlier  they  would  have  captured  a 
far  richer  prize,  for  on  the  1st  of  February  a  treasure  ship  had 
left  the  port  carrying  120,000  ducats  in  bullion.  To  get  away 
with  their  plunder  they  had  to  run  the  forts,  which  were 
much  too  strong  for  their  small  force  to  assault. 

"But  God  so  wrought  for  us,"  he  says,  "that  we  safely 
gott  forthe  againe  contrarie  to  the  expectations  of  our 

Although  Parker,  like  Drake,  was  more  of  a  privateer  than 
pirate,  it  soon  became  impossible  to  distinguish  between  the 
"profession"  and  the  "trade."  As  early  as  1531,  French 
corsairs  began  to  infest  the  Caribbean  Sea.  When  their  own 
country  was  at  war  with  Spain  they  flew  the  French  flag. 
But  once  having  tasted  the  wild  life  of  privateering,  it  was 
difficult  for  them  to  settle  down  to  quiet  industry  when  a 
temporary  peace  interfered  with  their  lucrative  enterprises. 
They  got  into  the  habit  of  switching  their  allegiance  to  what- 
ever country  was  embroiled  with  Spain.  Every  really  enter- 

316  PANAMA 

prising  sea-rover  had  at  least  four  or  five  commissions  from 
different  countries  in  his  chest.  And  as  the  spell  of  their 
adventurous  life  grew  upon  them  they  became  less  and  less 
careful  to  preserve  the  forms  of  honorable  war.  What  was 
true  of  the  French  privateers  was  equally  true  of  the  English. 
The  "heretical  pirates"  of  the  sixteenth  century  were 
honored  war-dogs  of  the  Good  Queen  Bess,  carrying  on  the 
desperate  war  for  national  existence  and  religious  freedom 
against  the  archenemy.  Drake  and  Parker — according  to 
the  standards  of  their  day — were  gentlemen.  The  "heretical 
pirates"  of  the  next  century  were  a  decidedly  lower  order 
of  men. 



THE  etymology  of  the  word  " buccaneer"  has  led  many 
historians  astray. 

The  Indians  called  the  meat  which  they  preserved  by 
smoking  "buccan."  Just  as  the  Spanish  horse  developed 
into  wild  herds  on  our  Western  plains,  so  their  cattle  multi- 
plied very  rapidly  on  the  islands  of  Santo  Domingo  and 
Cuba.  " Buccan"  was  in  great  demand  for  victualling  the 
ships.  And  gradually  a  trade  grew  up,  of  men,  almost  as 
wild  as  the  cattle  they  hunted,  who  went  out  into  the  unin- 
habited savanahs  and  jungle  to  kill  and  cure  meat  to  supply 
the  towns.  The  French,  who  had  settled  on  one  end  of 
Santo  Domingo — using  their  regular  suffix — coined  the  word 
" buccaneer"  as  a  name  for  these  cattle  hunters. 

It  was  not  a  remunerative  trade.  The  men  who  followed 
it  were  the  jetsam  of  colonial  society;  criminals,  who  feared 
the  justice  of  the  towns;  misanthropists,  who  preferred  the 
open  solitude  beyond  the  frontiers  to  the  press  of  their  fellow 
men.  From  what  we  know  of  them  they  seem  to  have  been 
vagabonds  rather  than  desperadoes.  The  name  came  to  be 
used  like  our  American  word  " tramp."  If  anyone  missed 
a  silver  spoon,  or  if  the  washing  was  blown  off  the  line,  it 
was  blamed  on  these  irresponsible  cow-hunters.  And  it 
was  the  same  when  a  derelict  burnt  down  to  the  water's  edge 
was  encountered  at  sea;  the  respectable  people  shook  their 
heads  and  said,  "  Surely  it  was  the  Buccaneers." 

But  the  chroniclers  of  the  sea-rovers,  Exquemelin,  Wafer, 

318  PANAMA 

Dampier,  Ringrose  and  the  others,  do  not  show  that  the 
crews  of  buccaneer  ships  were  to  any  large  extent  recruited 
from  these  men  who  killed  the  wild  cattle  and  peddled  the 
"buccan"  in  the  towns.  These  poor  devils  did  nothing 
much  for  the  pirates  but  give  them  a  name. 

The  men  who  sailed  with  Mansfield,  Morgan  and  Sharpe 
had  very  few  of  them  done  such  an  innocent  thing  as  kill 
cattle  since  they  had  reached  the  age  of  sixteen. 

It  would  take  us  too  far  afield  to  analyze  the  character  of 
the  population  in  the  colonies.  Spain,  alone  of  the  Euro- 
pean nations,  made  any  effort  to  send  a  substantial  class  of 
people  to  the  Indies.  It  was  a  perfunctory  effort,  no  doubt, 
but  the  other  countries  frankly  made  the  New  World  a 
dumping-ground  for  criminals.  The  French,  Dutch  and 
English,  all  had  penal  colonies  in  the  Antilles.  The  inden- 
tured servants  were  notoriously  a  wild  lot.  And  very  many 
of  the  free  citizens  had  left  home  in  haste — just  in  time  to 
preserve  their  freedom. 

It  was  not  difficult  to  gather  half  a  hundred  cut-throats 
in  any  American  port;  more  than  one  pirate  ship  in  later 
years  sailed  from  Plymouth  colony.  The  privateers,  the 
heroes  of  the  British  navy,  showed  the  way.  The  habit  of 
applauding  rapine  on  the  Spanish  Main  had  become  so  deep- 
seated  in  England  that  no  serious  effort  was  made  to  check 
the  piracy  which  had  its  headquarters  in  Jamaica  until  well 
along  towards  the  close  of  the  seventeenth  century. 

But  piracy  was  by  no  means  confined  to  one  nationality. 
As  a  general  proposition  it  was  considered  legitimate  for 
any  Protestant  to  prey  on  the  subjects  of  His  Most  Catholic 
Majesty.  This  gave  free  license  to  practically  all  English- 
men and  Hollanders.  And  a  great  many  Frenchmen  on 
their  arrival  in  the  Indies  decided  that  it  would  be  profitable 
to  become  Hugueneaux. 

"These  'corsarios  Luteranos'  as  the  Spaniards  sometimes 


called  them,"  Haring  writes,  "scouring  the  coast  of  the 
Main  from  Venezuela  to  Cartagena,  hovering  about  the 
broad  channel  between  Cuba  and  Yucatan,  or  prowling  in 
the  Florida  Straits,  became  the  nightmare  of  Spanish  sea- 
men. Like  a  pack  of  terriers  they  hung  upon  the  skirts  of 
the  great  unwieldly  fleets,  ready  to  snap  up  any  unfortunate 
vessel  which  a  tempest  or  other  accident  had  separated  from 
its  fellows.  When  Thomas  Gage  was  sailing  in  the  galleons 
from  Porto  Bello  to  Cartagena,  in  1637,  four  buccaneers 
hovering  near  them  carried  away  two  merchant-ships  under 
cover  of  darkness.  As  the  same  fleet  was  departing  from 
Havana,  just  outside  the  harbor  two  strange  vessels  appeared 
in  their  midst,  and  getting  to  the  windward  of  them  singled 
out  a  Spanish  ship  which  had  strayed  a  short  distance  from 
the  rest,  suddenly  gave  her  a  broadside  and  made  her  yield. 
The  vessel  was  laden  with  sugar  and  other  goods  to  the  value 
of  80,000  crowns.  The  Spanish  vice-admiral  and  two  other 
galleons  gave  chase,  but  without  success,  for  the  wind  was 
against  them.  The  whole  action  lasted  only  half  an  hour. 

"The  Spanish  ships  of  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  cen- 
turies were  notoriously  clumsy  and  unseaworthy.  With 
short  keel  and  towering  poop  and  forecastle,  they  were  an 
easy  prey  for  the  long,  low,  close-sailing  sloops  and  barques 
of  the  buccaneers.  But  it  was  not  their  only  weakness. 
Although  the  king  expressly  prohibited  the  loading  of  mer- 
chandise on  the  galleons  except  on  the  king's  account,  this 
rule  was  often  broken  for  the  private  profit  of  the  captain, 
the  sailors,  and  even  of  the  general.  The  men-of-war,  in- 
deed, were  sometimes  so  embarrassed  with  goods  and  passen- 
gers that  it  was  scarcely  possible  to  defend  them  when  at- 
tacked. The  galleon  which  bore  the  general's  flag  had  often 
as  many  as  seven  hundred  souls,  crew,  marines  and  passen- 
gers, on  board,  and  the  same  number  were  crowded  upon 
those  carrying  the  vice-admiral  and  the  pilot.  Ship-masters 

320  PANAMA 

frequently  hired  guns,  anchors,  cables,  and  stores  to  make  up 
the  required  equipment,  and  men  to  fill  up  the  muster-rolls, 
against  the  time  when  the  "visitadors"  came  on  board  to 
make  their  official  inspection,  getting  rid  of  the  stores  and 
men  inmediately  afterward.  Merchant  ships  were  armed 
with  such  feeble  crews,  owing  to  the  excessive  crowding,  that 
it  was  all  they  could  do  to  withstand  the  least  spell  of  bad 
weather,  let  alone  out-manoeuvre  a  swift-sailing  buccaneer." 

Henry  Morgan,  the  most  famous  of  the  buccaneers,  was 
typical.  When  a  young  boy  he  was  kidnapped  in  the 
streets  of  Bristol— it  is  claimed  that  he  came  of  a  good 
English  family — and  was  sold  as  an  indentured  servant  to 
some  colonist  in  Barbados.  When  his  time  had  expired  he 
made  his  way  to  Jamaica  and  soon  fell  in  with  the  bucca- 
neers who  infested  that  island.  Before  very  long  he  became 
the  captain  of  a  ship.  At  first  he  seems  to  have  had  but 
moderate  fortune.  He  took  part  in  several  raids  but  did 
not  rise  to  prominence  until  he  joined  forces  with  Mans- 
field— the  first  of  the  buccaneers  who  succeeded  in  rallying 
enough  pirates  under  one  command  to  make  himself  for- 
midable to  fortified  coast  towns.  Morgan  became  his  prin- 
cipal lieutenant,  and  when  this  chief  passed  over  became  the 
acknowledged  leader  of  the  buccaneers. 

In  June,  1668,  when  he  was  thirty-three  years  old,  Mor- 
gan collected  a  fleet  of  nine  or  ten  small  ships  and  perhaps 
four  hundred  men.  With  them  he  attacked  Puerto  Bello 
and  wrote  his  name  alongside  that  of  Sir  Francis  Drake  in 
the  record  of  Englishmen  whom  the  Spaniards  feared  and 

In  his  company  was  a  young  Dutch  apothecary,  named 
Exquemelin,  who  afterwards  wrote  one  of  the  most  popular 
books  of  the  century.  His  history  of  the  Sea-Rovers,  first 
printed  in  his  own  language,  was  soon  translated  into  half  a 
dozen  others  and  edition  after  edition  was  printed.  Almost 


every  book  on  the  buccaneers  which  has  appeared  since  is 
based  on  Exquemelin. 

"Captain  Morgan,"  he  says,  "who  knew  very  well  all  the 
avenues  of  this  city,  as  also  all  the  neighboring  coasts,  ar- 
rived in  the  dusk  of  the  evening  at  the  place  called  Puerto 
de  Naos  [probably  the  present  Colon  Harbor],  distant  ten 
leagues  towards  the  west  of  Porto  Bello.  Being  come  unto 
this  place,  they  mounted  the  river  in  their  ships,  as  far  as 
another  harbor  called  Puerto  Pontin,  where  they  came  to 
anchor.  Here  they  put  themselves  immediately  into  boats 
and  canoes,  leaving  in  the  ships  only  a  few  men  to  keep 
them  and  conduct  them  the  next  day  into  the  port.  About 
midnight  they  came  to  a  certain  place  called  Estera  longa 
Lemos,  where  they  all  went  on  shore,  and  marched  by  land 
to  the  first  posts  of  the  city.  They  had  in  their  company  a 
certain  Englishman,  who  had  been  formerly  a  prisoner  in 
those  parts,  and  who  now  served  them  for  a  guide.  Unto 
him,  and  three  or  four  more,  they  gave  commission  to  take 
the  sentry,  if  possible,  or  to  kill  him  upon  the  place.  But 
they  laid  hands  on  him  and  apprehended  him  with  such 
cunning  as  he  had  no  time  to  give  warning  with  his  musket, 
or  make  any  other  noise.  Thus  they  brought  him,  with  his 
hands  bound,  unto  Captain  Morgan,  who  asked  him:  'How 
things  went  in  the  city,  and  what  forces  they  had';  with 
many  other  circumstances,  which  he  was  desirous  to  know. 
After  every  question  they  made  him  a  thousand  menaces 
to  kill  him,  in  case  he  declared  not  the  truth.  Thus  they 
began  to  advance  towards  the  city,  carrying  always  the  said 
sentry  bound  before  them.  Having  marched  about  one 
quarter  of  a  league,  they  came  to  the  castle  that  is  nigh  unto 
the  city,  which  presently  they  closely  surrounded,  so  that 
no  person  could  either  get  in  or  out  of  the  said  fortress. 

"Being  thus  posted  under  the  walls  of  the  castle,  Cap- 
tain Morgan  commanded  the  sentry,  whom  they  had  taken 

322  PANAMA 

prisoner,  to  speak  to  those  that  were  within,  charging  them 
to  surrender,  and  deliver  themselves  up  to  his  discretion; 
otherwise  they  should  be  all  cut  to  pieces,  without  giving 
quarter  to  any  one.  But  they  would  harken  to  none  of 
these  threats,  beginning  instantly  to  fire;  which  gave  notice 
unto  the  city,  and  this  was  suddenly  alarmed.  Yet,  not- 
withstanding, although  the  governor  and  soldiers  of  the  said 
castle  made  as  great  resistance  as  could  be  performed,  they 
were  constrained  to  surrender  unto  the  pirates.  These  no 
sooner  had  taken  the  castle,  than  they  resolved  to  be  as 
good  as  their  word,  in  putting  the  Spaniards  to  the  sword, 
thereby  to  strike  a  terror  into  the  rest  of  the  city.  Here- 
upon, having  shut  up  all  the  soldiers  and  officers  as  pris- 
oners, into  one  room,  they  instantly  set  fire  to  the  powder 
(whereof  they  found  great  quantity),  and  blew  up  the  whole 
castle  into  the  air,  with  all  the  Spaniards  that  were  within. 
This  being  done,  they  pursued  the  course  of  their  victory, 
falling  upon  the  city,  which  as  yet  was  not  in  order  to 
receive  them.  Many  of  the  inhabitants  cast  their  precious 
jewels  and  money  into  wells  and  cisterns  or  hid  them  in 
other  places  underground,  to  excuse  as  much  as  possible, 
their  being  totally  robbed.  One  party  of  the  pirates,  being 
assigned  to  this  purpose,  ran  immediately  to  the  cloisters 
and  took  as  many  religious  men  and  women  as  they  could 
find.  The  governor  of  the  city  not  being  able  to  rally  the 
citizens,  through  the  huge  confusion  of  the  town,  retired 
into  one  of  the  castles  remaining,  and  from  thence  began  to 
fire  incessantly  at  the  pirates.  But  these  were  not  in  the 
least  negligent  either  to  assault  him  or  defend  themselves 
with  all  the  courage  imaginable.  Thus  it  was  observed  that, 
amidst  the  horror  of  the  assault,  they  made  very  few  shot  in 
vain.  For  aiming  with  great  dexterity  at  the  mouths  of 
the  guns,  the  Spaniards  were  certain  to  lose  one  or  two  men 
every  time  they  charged  each  gun  anew. 


"The  assault  of  the  castle  where  the  governor  was  con- 
tinued very  furious  on  both  sides,  from  break  of  day  until 
noon.  Yea,  about  this  time  of  the  day  the  case  was  very 
dubious  which  party  should  conquer  or  be  conquered.  .  .  . 
Captain  Morgan,  seeing  this  generous  defense  made  by  the 
Spaniards,  began  to  despair  of  the  whole  success  of  the  en- 
terprise. Hereupon  many  faint  and  calm  meditations  came 
into  his  mind;  neither  could  he  determine  which  way  to 
turn  himself  in  that  straitness  of  affairs.  Being  involved  in 
these  thoughts,  he  was  suddenly  animated  to  continue  the 
assault,  by  seeing  the  English  colours  put  forth  at  one  of 
the  lesser  castles,  then  entered  by  his  men,  of  whom  he 
presently  after  spied  a  troop  that  came  to  meet  him  pro- 
claiming victory  with  loud  shouts  of  joy.  This  instantly 
put  him  upon  new  resolutions  of  making  new  efforts  to  take 
the  rest  of  the  castles  that  stood  out  against  him;  especially 
seeing  the  chief  citizens  were  fled  unto  them,  and  had  con- 
veyed thither  great  part  of  their  riches,  with  all  the  plate 
belonging  to  the  churches,  and  other  things  dedicated  to 
divine  service. 

"To  this  effect,  therefore,  he  ordered  ten  or  twelve  lad- 
ders to  be  made,  in  all  possible  haste,  so  broad  that  three  or 
four  men  at  once  might  ascend  by  them.  These  being  fin- 
ished, he  commanded  all  the  religious  men  and  women 
whom  he  had  taken  prisoners  to  fix  them  against  the  walls 
of  the  castle.  Thus  much  he  had  before  hand  threatened 
the  governor  to  perform,  in  case  he  delivered  not  the  castle. 
But  his  answer  was:  'He  would  never  surrender  himself 
alive.'  Captain  Morgan  was  much  persuaded  that  the 
governor  would  not  employ  his  utmost  forces,  seeing  relig- 
ious women  and  ecclesiastical  persons  exposed  in  the  front 
of  the  soldiers  to  the  greatest  dangers.  Thus  the  ladders, 
as  I  have  said,  were  put  into  the  hands  of  religious  persons 
of  both  sexes;  and  these  were  forced,  at  the  head  of  the 

324  PANAMA 

companies,  to  raise  and  apply  them  to  the  walls.  But 
Captain  Morgan  was  deceived  in  his  judgment  of  this 
design.  For  the  governor,  who  acted  like  a  brave  and 
courageous  soldier,  refused  not,  in  performance  of  his  duty, 
to  use  his  utmost  endeavours  to  destroy  whosoever  came 
near  the  walls.  The  religious  men  and  women  ceased  not 
to  cry  unto  him  and  beg  of  him  by  all  the  Saints  of  Heaven 
he  would  deliver  the  castle,  and  hereby  spare  both  his  and 
their  own  lives.  But  nothing  could  prevail  with  the  ob- 
stinacy and  fierceness  that  had  possessed  the  governor's 
mind.  Thus  many  of  the  religious  men  and  nuns  were 
killed  before  they  could  fix  the  ladders.  Which  at  last 
being  done,  though  with  great  loss  of  the  said  religious 
people,  the  pirates  mounted  them  in  great  numbers,  and 
with  no  less  valour;  having  fireballs  in  their  hands  and 
earthen  pots  full  of  powder.  All  which  things,  being  now 
at  the  top  of  the  walls,  they  kindled  and  cast  in  among  the 

"This  effort  of  the  pirates  was  very  great,  insomuch  as 
the  Spaniards  could  no  longer  resist  nor  defend  the  castle, 
which  was  now  entered.  Hereupon  they  all  threw  down 
their  arms,  and  craved  quarter  for  their  lives.  Only  the 
governor  of  the  city  would  admit  or  crave  no  mercy;  but 
rather  killed  many  of  the  pirates  with  his  own  hands,  and 
not  a  few  of  his  own  soldiers  because  they  did  not  stand  to 
their  arms.  And  although  the  pirates  asked  him  if  he 
would  have  quarter,  yet  he  constantly  answered:  "By  no 
means;  I  had  rather  die  as  a  valiant  soldier,  than  be  hanged 
as  a  coward.'  They  endeavoured  as  much  as  they  could 
to  take  him  prisoner.  But  he  defended  himself  so  obsti- 
nately that  they  were  forced  to  kill  him;  notwithstanding 
all  the  cries  and  tears  of  his  own  wife  and  daughter,  who 
begged  him  upon  their  knees  he  would  demand  quarter  and 
save  his  life.  When  the  pirates  had  possessed  themselves 


of  the  castle,  which  was  about  night,  they  enclosed  therein 
all  the  prisoners  they  had  taken,  placing  the  women  and  men 
by  themselves,  with  some  guards  upon  them.  All  the 
wounded  were  put  into  a  certain  apartment  by  itself,  to  the 
intent  their  own  complaints  might  be  the  cure  of  their  dis- 
ease; for  no  other  was  afforded  them. 

"This  being  done,  they  fell  to  eating  and  drinking  after 
their  usual  manner;  that  is  to  say,  committing  in  both  these 
things  all  manner  of  debauchery  and  excess.  .  .  .  After 
such  manner  they  delivered  themselves  up  unto  all  sort  of 
debauchery,  that  if  there  had  been  found  only  fifty  courag- 
ous  men,  they  might  easily  have  retaken  the  city,  and  killed 
all  the  pirates.  The  next  day,  having  plundered  all  they 
could  find,  they  began  to  examine  some  of  the  prisoners 
(who  had  been  persuaded  by  their  companions  to  say  they 
were  the  richest  of  the  town),  charging  them  severely  to 
discover  where  they  had  hidden  their  riches  and  goods.  But 
not  being  able  to  extort  anything  out  of  them,  as  they  were 
not  the  right  persons  that  possessed  any  wealth,  they  at  last 
resolved  to  torture  them.  This  they  performed  with  such 
cruelty  that  many  of  them  died  upon  the  rack,  or  presently 
after.  Soon  after,  the  President  of  Panama  had  news 
brought  him  of  the  pillage  and  ruin  of  Porto  Bello.  This 
intelligence  caused  him  to  employ  all  his  care  and  industry 
to  raise  forces,  with  design  to  pursue  and  cast  out  the 
pirates  from  thence.  But  these  cared  little  for  what 
extraordinary  means  the  president  used,  as  having  their 
ships  nigh  at  hand,  and  being  determined  to  set  fire  unto  the 
city  and  retreat.  They  had  now  been  at  Porto  Bello  fifteen 
days,  in  which  space  of  time  they  had  lost  many  of  their 
men,  both  by  the  unhealthiness  of  the  country  and  the  ex- 
travagant debaucheries  they  had  committed." 

In  regard  to  the  diseases  which  carried  off  some  of  the 
pirates,  Mr.  Haring  gives  a  note  in  which  he  quotes  an  old 

326  PANAMA 

book  called  "The  Present  State  of  Jamaica,  1683,"  which 
says  that  Morgan  brought  the  plague  back  from  Puerto 
Bello,  "that  killed  my  Lady  Modyford  and  others." 

"Hereupon  they  prepared  for  a  departure,"  Exquemelin 
continues,  "carrying  on  board  their  ships  all  the  pillage  they 
had  gotten.  But,  before  all,  they  provided  the  fleet  with 
sufficient  victuals  for  the  voyage.  While  these  things  were 
getting  ready,  Captain  Morgan  sent  an  injunction  unto  the 
prisoners,  that  they  should  pay  him  a  ransom  for  the  city, 
or  else  he  would  by  fire  consume  it  to  ashes,  and  blow  up  all 
the  castles  into  the  air.  Withal,  he  commanded  them  to 
send  speedily  two  persons  to  seek  and  procure  the  sum  he 
demanded,  which  amounted  to  one  hundred  thousand  pieces 
of  eight.  Unto  this  effect,  two  men  were  sent  to  the  Presi- 
dent of  Panama,  who  gave  him  an  account  of  all  these 
tragedies.  .  .  ." 

The  President  of  Panama  was  unable  to  relieve  the 
stricken  town,  and  so  "the  miserable  citizens,  gathered  the 
contribution  wherein  they  were  fined,  and  brought  the 
entire  sum  of  one  hundred  thousand  pieces  of  eight  unto 
the  pirates,  for  a  ransom  of  the  cruel  captivity  they  were 
fallen  into.  But  the  President  of  Panama,  by  these  trans- 
actions, was  brought  into  an  extreme  admiration,  consider- 
ing that  four  hundred  men  had  been  able  to  take  such  a 
great  city,  with  so  many  strong  castles;  especially  seeing 
they  had  no  pieces  of  cannon,  nor  other  great  guns,  where- 
with to  raise  batteries  against  them.  And  what  was  more, 
knowing  that  the  citizens  of  Porto  Bello  had  always  great 
repute  of  being  good  soldiers  themselves,  and  who  had  never 
wanted  courage  in  their  own  defence.  This  astonishment 
was  so  great,  that  it  occasioned  him,  for  to  be  satisfied 
thereon,  to  send  a  messenger  unto  Captain  Morgan,  desiring 
him  to  send  him  some  small  pattern  of  those  arms  where- 
with he  had  taken  with  such  violence  so  great  a  city. 


Captain  Morgan  received  this  messenger  very  kindly,  and 
treated  him  with  great  civility.  Which  being  done,  he  gave 
him  a  pistol  and  a  few  small  bullets  of  lead,  to  carry  back 
unto  the  President,  his  master,  telling  him  withal:  'He  de- 
sired him  to  accept  that  slender  pattern  of  arms  wherewith 
he  had  taken  Porto  Bello  and  keep  them  for  a  twelvemonth  ; 
after  which  time  he  promised  to  come  to  Panama  and  fetch 
them  away.'  The  governor  of  Panama  returned  the  present 
very  soon  unto  Captain  Morgan,  giving  him  thanks  for  the 
favour  of  lending  him  such  weapons  as  he  needed  not,  and 
withal  sent  him  a  ring  of  gold,  with  this  message:  'That  he 
desired  him  not  give  himself  the  labour  of  coming  to  Pan- 
ama, as  he  had  done  to  Porto  Bello;  for  he  did  certify  unto 
him  that  he  should  not  speed  so  well  here  as  he  had  done 

"After  these  transactions,  Captain  Morgan  (having  pro- 
vided his  fleet  with  all  necessaries,  and  taken  with  him  the 
best  guns  of  the  castles,  nailing  the  rest  which  he  could  not 
carry  away)  set  sail  from  Porto  Bello  with  all  his  ships. 
With  these  he  arrived  in  a  few  days  unto  the  Island  of 
Cuba,  where  he  sought  out  a  place  wherein  with  all  quiet  and 
repose  he  might  make  the  dividend  of  the  spoil  they  had 
gotten.  They  found  in  ready  money  two  hundred  and  fifty 
thousand  pieces  of  eight,  besides  all  other  merchandise,  as 
cloth,  linen,  silks  and  other  goods.  With  this  rich  purchase 
they  sailed  again  from  thence  unto  their  common  place  of 
rendezvous,  Jamaica.  Being  arrived,  they  passed  here  some 
time  in  all  sorts  of  vices  and  debauchery,  according  to 
their  common  manner  of  doing,  spending  with  huge  prodi- 
gality what  others  had  gained  with  no  small  labour  and 

The  fame  of  this  exploit  made  it  easy  for  Morgan  to 
muster  a  larger  force  for  the  carrying  out  of  his  threat 
against  Panama.  In  October,  1670,  he  sailed  from  Kings- 

328  PANAMA 

ton  to  a  rendezvous  where  he  gathered  between  twenty-five 
and  thirty  English  vessels  and  five  or  ten  French. 

"The  President  of  Panama,  meanwhile,  on  15th  Decem- 
ber, had  received  a  messenger  from  the  governor  of  Carta- 
gena with  news  of  the  coming  of  the  English,"  writes  Haring. 
"The  president  immediately  dispatched  reinforcements  to 
the  Castle  of  Chagre,  which  arrived  fifteen  days  before  the 
buccaneers  and  raised  its  strength  to  over  350  men.  Two 
hundred  men  were  sent  to  Porto  Bello,  and  500  more  were 
stationed  at  Venta  Cruz  and  in  ambuscades  along  the 
Chagre  River  to  oppose  the  advance  of  the  English.  The 
president  himself  rose  from  a  bed  of  sickness  to  head  a  re- 
serve of  800,  but  most  of  his  men  were  raw  recruits  without 
a  professional  soldier  amongst  them.  This  militia  in  a  few 
days  became  so  panic-stricken  that  one-third  deserted  in  a 
night,  and  the  president  was  compelled  to  retire  to  Panama. 
There  the  Spaniards  managed  to  load  some  of  the  treasure 
upon  two  or  three  ships  lying  in  the  roadstead;  and  the  nuns 
and  most  of  the  citizens  of  importance  also  embarked  with 
their  wives,  children  and  personal  property." 

After  severe  fighting  and  considerable  loss  of  life,  the 
buccaneers  captured  Fort  San  Lorenzo  at  the  mouth  of  the 
Rio  Chagres  and  started  up  the  river  in  canoes.  From  the 
very  first  they  encountered  great  hardships  from  the  diffi- 
cult and  unfamiliar  trail.  The  Spaniards  had  been  careful 
not  to  leave  anything  edible  in  their  way  and  after  the  first 
day  they  ran  out  of  provisions.  On  the  fourth  day  they  came 
to  a  little  village  where  they  expected  that  "they  should  find 
some  provisions  wherewith  to  satiate  their  hunger,  which 
was  very  great.  Being  come  unto  the  place,  they  found 
nobody  in  it,  the  Spaniards  who  were  there  not  long  before 
being  every  one  fled,  and  leaving  nothing  behind  unless  it 
were  a  small  number  of  leather  bags,  all  empty,  and  a  few 
crumbs  of  bread  scattered  upon  the  ground  where  they  had 


eaten.  Being  angry  at  this  misfortune,  they  pulled  down  a 
few  little  huts  which  the  Spaniards  had  made,  and  after- 
wards fell  to  eating  the  leather  bags,  as  being  desirous  to 
afford  something  to  the  ferment  of  their  stomachs,  which 
now  was  grown  so  sharp  that  it  did  gnaw  their  very  bowels, 
having  nothing  else  to  prey  upon.  Thus  they  made  a  huge 
banquet  upon  those  bags  of  leather,  which  doubtless  had 
been  more  grateful  unto  them,  if  divers  quarrels  had  not 
risen  concerning  who  should  have  the  greatest  share.  By 
the  circumference  of  the  place  they  conjectured  five  hundred 
Spaniards,  more  or  less,  had  been  there.  And  these,  finding 
no  victuals,  they  were  now  infinitely  desirous  to  meet,  in- 
tending to  devour  some  of  them  rather  than  perish.  Whom 
they  would  certainly  in  that  occasion  have  roasted  or  boiled, 
to  satisfy  their  famine,  had  they  been  able  to  take  them. 

"After  they  had  feasted  themselves  with  those  pieces  of 
leather,  they  quitted  the  place,  and  marched  farther  on,  till 
they  came  about  night  to  another  post  called  Torna  Munni. 
Here  they  found  another  ambuscade,  but  as  barren  and 
desert  as  the  former.  They  searched  the  neighbouring  woods 
but  could  not  find  the  least  thing  to  eat.  The  Spaniards 
having  been  so  provident  as  not  to  leave  behind  them  any- 
where the  least  crumb  of  sustenance,  whereby  the  pirates 
were  now  brought  to  the  extremity  aforementioned.  Here 
again  he  was  happy,  that  had  reserved  since  noon  any  small 
piece  of  leather  whereof  to  make  his  supper,  drinking  after 
it  a  good  draught  of  water  for  his  greatest  comfort.  Some 
persons  who  never  were  out  of  their  mother's  kitchens  may 
ask  how  these  pirates  could  eat,  swallow  and  digest  those 
pieces  of  leather,  so  hard  and  dry.  Unto  whom  I  only 
answer:  That  could  they  once  experiment  what  hunger,  or 
rather  famine,  is,  they  would  certainly  find  the  manner,  by 
their  own  necessity,  as  the  pirates  did.  For  these  first  took 
the  leather  and  sliced  it  in  pieces.  Then  did  they  beat  it 

330  PANAMA 

between  two  stones  and  rub  it,  often  dipping  it  in  the  water 
of  the  river,  to  render  it  by  these  means  supple  and  tender. 
Lastly  they  scraped  off  the  hair,  and  roasted  or  broiled  it 
upon  the  fire.  And  being  thus  cooked  they  cut  it  into  small 
morsels,  and  eat  it,  helping  it  down  with  frequent  gulps  of 
water,  which  by  good  fortune  they  had  nigh  at  hand." 

On  the  next  day  "they  found  two  sacks  of  meal,  wheat 
and  like  things,  with  two  great  jars  of  wine,  and  certain 
fruits  called  plantanos.  Captain  Morgan,  knowing  that 
some  of  his  men  were  now,  through  hunger,  reduced  almost 
to  the  extremity  of  their  lives,  and  fearing  lest  the  major 
part  should  be  brought  into  the  same  condition,  caused  all 
that  was  found  to  be  distributed  amongst  them  who  were  in 
greatest  necessity.  Having  refreshed  themselves  with  these 
victuals,  they  began  to  march  anew  with  greater  courage 
than  ever.  Such  as  could  not  well  go  for  weakness  were 
put  into  the  canoes,  and  those  commanded  to  land  that 
were  in  them  before.  Thus  they  prosecuted  their  journey 
till  late  at  night,  at  which  time  they  came  unto  a  plantation 
where  they  took  up  their  rest.  But  without  eating  anything 
at  all;  for  the  Spaniards,  as  before,  had  swept  away  all  man- 
ner of  provisions,  leaving  not  behind  them  the  least  signs  of 

"On  the  sixth  day  they  continued  their  march,  part  of 
them  by  land  through  the  woods,  and  part  by  water  in  the 
canoes.  Howbeit  they  were  constrained  to  rest  themselves 
very  frequently  by  the  way,  both  for  the  ruggedness  thereof 
and  the  extreme  weakness  they  were  under.  .  .  .  This 
day,  at  noon,  they  arrived  at  a  plantation,  where  they  found 
a  barn  full  of  maize.  Immediately  they  beat  down  the 
doors,  and  fell  to  eating  of  it  dry,  as  much  as  they  could 
devour.  Afterwards  they  distributed  great  quantity,  giving 
to  every  man  a  good  allowance  thereof.  Being  thus  pro- 
vided they  prosecuted  their  journey." 


On  the  eighth  day,  according  to  Exquemelin,  they  met 
with  some  resistance.  Although  the  Spaniards  would  not 
stop  to  give  battle,  the  Indians  were  bolder,  and  there  were 
two  or  three  sharp  skirmishes. 

On  the  ninth  day,  having  had  nothing  to  eat  but  scraps 
of  leather,  some  dry  maize  and  the  two  sacks  of  meal  and  a 
few  plantains,  they  came  to  a  high  mountain,  which,  "when 
they  ascended,  they  discovered  from  the  top  thereof  the 
South  Sea.  This  happy  sight,  as  if  it  were  the  end  of  their 
labours,  caused  infinite  joy  among  the  pirates.  From  hence 
they  could  descry  one  ship  and  six  boats,  which  were  set 
forth  from  Panama,  and  sailed  towards  the  islands  of  Tavoga 
and  Tavogilla.  Having  descended  this  mountain,  they  came 
unto  a  vale,  in  which  they  found  great  quantity  of  cattle, 
whereof  they  killed  good  store.  Here  while  some  were 
employed  in  killing  and  flaying  of  cows,  horses,  bulls  and 
chiefly  asses,  of  which  there  was  the  greatest  number,  others 
busied  themselves  in  kindling  of  fires  and  getting  wood 
wherewith  to  roast  them.  Thus  cutting  the  flesh  of  these 
animals  into  convenient  pieces,  or  gobbets,  they  threw  them 
into  the  fire  and,  half  carbonadoed  or  roasted,  they  devoured 
them  with  incredible  haste  and  appetite.  For  such  was  their 
hunger  that  they  more  resembled  cannibals  than  Europeans 
at  this  banquet,  the  blood  many  times  running  down  from 
their  beards  to  the  middle  of  their  bodies. 

"Having  satisfied  their  hunger  with  these  delicious  meats, 
Captain  Morgan  ordered  them  to  continue  the  march." 

It  is  needless  to  describe  the  battle  before  the  city.  Ex- 
quemelin goes  into  great  detail,  but  very  little  of  his  account 
is  convincing.  Morgan,  in  his  report  to  Gov.  Modyford  of 
Jamaica,  says  that  the  Spaniards  had  more  than  two  thou- 
sand infantry  and  six  hundred  cavalry.  The  President  of 
Panama,  in  his  report  to  the  Spanish  Court,  says  that  he 
had  but  twelve  hundred  in  all,  mostly  negroes,  mulattoes 

332  PANAMA 

and  Indians.  His  men  were  for  the  most  part  armed  with 
fowling-pieces,  and  his  artillery  he  claims  was  made  up  of 
three  wooden  guns  bound  with  hide.  The  buccaneers,  while 
greatly  outnumbered,  were  very  much  better  soldiers  than 
the  crude  militia  which  protected  the  town.  Morgan  claims 
that  he  only  lost  five  men  killed  and  ten  wounded,  and  that 
the  Spanish  loss  was  about  four  hundred.  Exquemelin  says 
there  were  six  hundred  Spaniards  "dead  upon  the  place 
besides  wounded  and  prisoners."  The  buccaneers  met  more 
formidable  resistance  when  they  entered  the  city. 

"They  found  much  difficulty  in  their  approach  unto  the 
city.  For  within  the  town  the  Spaniards  had  placed  many 
great  guns,  at  several  quarters  thereof,  some  of  which  were 
charged  with  small  pieces  of  iron,  and  others  with  musket 
bullets.  With  all  these  they  saluted  the  pirates,  at  their 
drawing  nigh  unto  the  place,  and  gave  them  full  and  fre- 
quent broadsides,  firing  at  them  incessantly.  Whence  it 
came  to  pass  that  unavoidably  they  lost,  at  every  step  they 
advanced,  great  numbers  of  men.  But  neither  these  mani- 
fest dangers  of  their  lives,  nor  the  sight  of  so  many  of  their 
own  as  dropped  down  continually  at  their  sides,  could  deter 
them  from  advancing  farther,  and  gaining  ground  every  mo- 
ment upon  the  enemy.  Thus,  although  the  Spaniards  never 
ceased  to  fire  and  act  the  best  they  could  for  their  defence, 
yet  notwithstanding  they  were  forced  to  deliver  the  city  after 
the  space  of  three  hours  combat.  And  the  pirates,  having  now 
possessed  themselves  thereof,  both  killed  and  destroyed  as 
many  as  attempted  to  make  the  least  opposition  against  them. 
The  inhabitants  had  caused  the  best  of  their  goods  to  be 
transported  to  more  remote  and  occult  places.  Howbeit  they 
found  within  the  city  as  yet  several  warehouses,  very  well 
stocked  with  all  sorts  of  merchandise,  as  well  as  silks  and 
cloths  as  linen,  and  other  things  of  considerable  value.  As 
soon  as  the  first  fury  of  their  entrance  into  the  city  was  over, 


Captain  Morgan  assembled  all  his  men  at  a  certain  place 
which  he  assigned,  and  there  commanded  them  under  very 
great  penalties  that  none  of  them  should  dare  to  drink  or 
taste  any  wine.  The  reason  he  gave  for  this  injunction  was, 
because  he  had  received  private  intelligence  that  it  had  been 
all  poisoned  by  the  Spaniards.  Howbeit  it  was  the  opinion 
of  many  he  gave  these  prudent  orders  to  prevent  the  de- 
bauchery of  his  people,  which  he  foresaw  would  be  very 
great  at  the  beginning,  after  so  much  hunger  sustained  by 
the  way.  Fearing  withal,  lest  the  Spaniards,  seeing  them  in 
wine,  should  rally  their  forces  and  fall  upon  the  city,  and  use 
them  as  inhumanly  as  they  had  used  the  inhabitants  before." 
"Exquemelin  accuses  Morgan  of  setting  fire  to  the  city 
and  endeavouring  to  make  the  world  believe  that  it  was  done 
by  the  Spaniards,"  Haring  writes.  "Wm.  Frogge,  however, 
who  was  also  present,  says  distinctly  that  the  Spaniards 
fired  the  town,  and  Sir  William  Godolphin,  in  a  letter  from 
Madrid  to  Secretary  Arlington  on  2nd  June,  1671,  giving 
news  of  the  exploit  which  must  have  come  from  a  Spanish 
source,  says  that  the  President  of  Panama  left  orders  that 
the  city  if  taken  should  be  burnt.  Moreover,  the  President 
of  Panama  himself,  in  a  letter  to  Spain,  describing  the 
event,  which  was  intercepted  by  the  English,  admits  that 
not  the  buccaneers  but  the  slaves  and  the  owners  of  the 
houses  set  fire  to  the  city.  The  buccaneers  tried  in  vain 
to  extinguish  the  flames,  and  the  whole  town,  which  was 
built  mostly  of  wood,  was  consumed  by  twelve  o'clock  mid- 
night. The  only  edifices  which  escaped  were  the  govern- 
ment buildings,  a  few  churches,  and  about  300  houses  in  the 
suburbs.  The  freebooters  remained  at  Panama  twenty- 
eight  days  seeking  plunder  and  indulging  in  every  variety 
of  excess.  Excursions  were  made  daily  into  the  country  for 
twenty  leagues  round  about  to  search  for  booty,  and  3,000 
prisoners  were  brought  in." 

334  PANAMA 

It  was  a  barren  raid  for  the  pirates.  The  ships  which 
they  had  seen  in  the  harbor  as  they  descended  the  moun- 
tains had  carried  off  most  of  the  wealth  of  the  city.  Al- 
though they  cruised  up  and  down  the  coast  and  captured  a 
few  small  boats  and  some  booty  the  treasure  ships  escaped. 

"Captain  Morgan  used  to  send  forth  daily  parties  of  two 
hundred  men,  to  make  inroads  into  all  the  fields  and  coun- 
try thereabouts,  and  when  one  party  came  back,  another 
consisting  of  two  hundred  more  was  ready  to  go  forth.  By 
this  means  they  gathered  in  a  short  time  huge  quantities  of 
riches,  and  no  less  number  of  prisoners.  These  being  brought 
into  the  city,  were  presently  put  unto  the  most  exquisite 
tortures  imaginable,  to  make  them  confess  both  other  peo- 
ple's goods  and  their  own.  .  .  .  After  this  execrable 
manner  did  many  of  these  miserable  prisoners  finish  their 
days,  the  common  sport  and  recreation  of  these  pirates 
being  these  and  other  tragedies  not  inferior  to  these. 

"They  spared  in  their  cruelties  no  sex  nor  condition  what- 
soever. For  as  to  religious  persons  and  priests,  they  granted 
them  less  quarter  than  unto  others,  unless  they  could  pro- 
duce a  considerable  sum  of  money,  capable  of  being  a  suffi- 
cient ransom.  Women  themselves  were  no  better  used. 
.  .  .  Captain  Morgan,  their  leader  and  commander,  gave 
them  no  good  example  in  this  point.  .  .  . 

"On  the  24th  of  February  of  the  year  1671,  Captain 
Morgan  departed  from  the  City  of  Panama,  or  rather  from 
the  place  where  the  said  City  of  Panama  did  stand.  Of 
the  spoils  whereof  he  carried  with  him  one  hundred  and 
seventy-five  beasts  of  carriage,  laden  with  silver,  gold  and 
other  precious  things,  besides  600  prisoners,  more  or  less, 
between  men,  women,  children  and  slaves." 

All  through  his  narrative,  Exquemelin  is  venomous  in  his 
references  to  Morgan.  Of  course  he  wrote  his  book  after 
his  return  to  Europe  where  piracy,  although  a  good  subject 


for  a  "best-seller,"  was  not  considered  a  reputable  profes- 
sion, so  it  was  necessary  for  him  every  few  pages  to  express 
his  own  abhorrance  for  such  deeds.  He  goes  to  considerable 
length  to  tell  how  he  was  captured  and  forced  to  join  the 
expedition  because  the  pirate  needed  an  apothecary.  But  I 
think  the  real  reason  for  his  rancor  against  Sir  Henry  crops 
out  in  a  passage  towards  the  end  of  his  book. 

After  describing  the  trip  back  across  the  Isthmus  to  Fort 
San  Lorenzo  at  the  mouth  of  the  Chagres,  Exquemelin  says 
that  "the  dividend  was  made  of  all  the  spoil  they  had  pur- 
chased in  that  voyage.  Thus  every  company  and  every 
particular  person  therein  included  received  their  portion  of 
what  was  gotten;  or  rather  what  part  thereof  Captain 
Morgan  was  pleased  to  give  them.  For  so  it  was,  that  the 
rest  of  his  companions,  even  of  his  own  nation,  complained 
of  his  proceedings  in  this  particular,  and  feared  not  to  tell 
him  openly  to  his  face,  that  he  had  reserved  the  best  jewels 
to  himself.  For  they  judged  it  impossible  that  no  greater 
share  should  belong  unto  them  than  two  hundred  pieces  of 
eight  per  capita,  of  so  many  valuable  purchases  and  rob- 
beries as  they  had  obtained.  Which  small  sum  they  thought 
too  little  reward  for  so  much  labour  and  such  huge  and  mani- 
fest dangers  as  they  had  so  often  exposed  their  lives  unto. 
But  Captain  Morgan  was  deaf  to  all  these  and  many  other 
complaints  of  this  kind,  having  designed  in  his  mind  to  cheat 
them  of  as  much  as  he  could." 

After  having  risked  not  only  his  life  but  also  his  reputa- 
tion on  this  piratical  adventure,  one  can  hardly  blame 
Exquemelin  for  harboring  a  grudge  against  the  man  who 
cheated  him  out  of  the  just  proceeds  of  his  robbery. 

The  scandal  caused  by  the  sack  of  Panama  City — Eng- 
land was  then  at  peace  with  Spain — was  so  great  that  the 
British  Government  was  forced  to  suppress  buccaneering  in 
Jamaica.  It  was  a  hard  thing  to  do,  for  just  as  the  corrupt 

336  PANAMA 

political  rings  of  our  cities  say  that  a  "wide-open  town" 
makes  for  prosperity,  so  in  Jamaica  almost  every  colonist 
was  directly  or  indirectly  interested  in  the  success  of  the 
buccaneers.  At  last  the  English  Government  decided  to 
set  a  thief  to  catch  the  thieves,  and  knighted  Henry  Morgan 
and  gave  him  the  work  of  wiping  out  his  old  trade.  On  the 
whole  he  did  a  pretty  fair  job  of  it. 

Although  the  old  habits  persisted  for  many  decades  it 
was  no  longer  anything  but  open  piracy.  The  Spaniards 
were  no  longer  the  only  prey. 



SOME  time  in  the  last  quarter  of  the  seventeenth  century 
a  young  Scotch  minister  came  to  Jamaica.  His  name  was 
William  Paterson.  We  have  no  authentic  information  of 
why  he  visited  the  colony  nor  of  what  he  did  there.  His 
enemies — of  whom  he  later  acquired  a  great  multitude — 
pretend  that  he  left  the  Presbyterian  Church  to  go  on  a 
pirate  cruise.  There  are  no  proofs  of  this  accusation,  but 
he  is  known  to  have  made  the  acquaintance  of  several 
eminent  buccaneers,  and  he  certainly  had  not  been  destined 
by  the  Fates  for  the  ministry. 

In  1686  Paterson — about  thirty  years  of  age — returned  to 
Europe  with  a  "  Scheme  of  Foreign  Trade."  He  has  left 
no  written  records  of  this  period  of  his  life,  no  detailed 
account  of  his  "  scheme."  All  we  know  about  his  activity 
is  from  chance  allusions  to  him  in  the  writings  of  the  mer- 
chants of  his  day.  A  number  of  them  tell  casually  of  having 
been  visited  by  a  young  visionary  who  tried  to  interest  them 
in  a  Utopian  scheme  of  colonizing  the  Isthmus  of  Panama 
and  turning  it  into  a  great  free-trade  emporium  of  the 
Oriental  trade.  From  such  scattered  allusion  we  know  that 
he  travelled  over  most  of  Northern  Europe,  Amsterdam, 
Hamburg,  the  Hanseatic  towns  of  the  Baltic.  He  seems  to 
have  dreamed  of  creating  a  neutral  or  international  colony 
on  the  Isthmus,  with  immense  ports  on  either  ocean,  con- 
nected by  a  canal,  and  concentrating  there  the  trade  of  the 
Indies.  He  was  also  an  extreme  free  trader.  And  it  was 


338  PANAMA 

by  freeing  these  ports  of  all  the  monopolistic  restrictions,  on 
which  the  trading  companies  of  his  day  were  built,  that  he 
expected  to  draw  the  commerce  of  the  world  into  his  scheme. 

No  one  would  listen  to  him.  So  he  settled  in  London  and, 
tucking  away  his  dream  in  a  back  compartment  of  his  brain, 
he  set  about  making  himself  a  fortune.  He  developed  an 
amazing  genius,  and  within  five  years,  when  hardly  thirty- 
five  years  old,  he  had  become  a  dominant  figure  in  the  London 
financial  world.  His  prestige  was  so  great  that  when,  in  1691, 
he  proposed  to  organize  a  corporation  to  fund  the  debts  of 
the  British  Crown,  he  received  a  respectful  hearing.  For 
three  years  he  devoted  himself  to  this  project  and  in  1694 
the  English  Parliament  accepted  his  proposals  and  incorpo- 
rated the  Bank  of  England.  Paterson  was  one  of  the  origi- 
nal board  of  directors. 

The  founding  of  the  Bank  of  England  has  led  us  some 
distance  from  Panama,  but  we  must  make  one  more  detour 
before  we  can  find  our  way  to  the  Scots  Colonie  at  Darien. 

The  Glorious  Restoration,  after  the  collapse  of  the  Com- 
monwealth, had  made  the  same  man  king  of  the  two  hostile 
countries  of  England  and  Scotland.  Ever  since  the  Romans 
had  built  a  wall  across  the  Island  to  keep  out  the  northern 
barbarians,  Saxons  and  Celts  had  been  cutting  each  other's 
throats  at  every  opportunity.  Although  King  William  was 
wearing  both  crowns,  the  union  was  personal,  not  organic. 
Just  as  Franz  Josef  is  Emperor  of  Austria  and  King  of 
Hungary,  and  as  Nicholas  is  Tsar  of  Russia  and  Grand  Duke 
of  Finland,  so  William  was  king  of  two  countries  which  had 
nothing  in  common  but  their  sovereign. 

England  was  one  of  the  most  advanced  countries  indus- 
trially; Scotland  was  only  half  emerged  from  the  chrysalis 
of  feudalism.  From  their  barren,  wind-swept  hills  the  pro- 
gressive Scots  were  looking  with  envy  and  desire  on  the  rich 
commerce  of  England  and  wishing  to  share  in  it — it  was  this 


desire  which  later  motived  the  organic  union  of  the  two 
countries — but  it  was  a  bad  time  for  outsiders  to  try  to 
seize  a  share  of  profits.  It  was  an  age  of  monopolies. 

The  Oriental  trade  of  England  was  the  private  property 
of  the  East  India  Company.  This  small  group  of  city  mer- 
chants owned  the  earth  and  the  fulness  thereof — at  least 
all  the  earth  which  offered  spectacular  profits  to  traders. 
Already  firmly  established,  this  Company  had  so  thoroughly 
" built  its  fences,"  so  entirely  "fixed"  Parliament  that  for 
more  than  a  century  they  were  able  to  rule  England  almost 
as  autocratically  as  they  governed  their  rapidly  growing 
empire  in  India. 

Some  day  "  A  History  of  Graft"  will  be  written  and  we  will 
most  of  us  be  surprised  to  find  how  very  much  less  we  have 
of  it  to-day  than  in  the  past.  Two  great  events  will  be 
recorded  in  such  a  history.  The  first  will  be  the  time  in 
each  nation's  history  when  the  Privy  Purse  was  definitely 
separated  from  the  National  Treasury.  When  the  National 
consciousness  had  grown  to  the  point  of  differentiating  be- 
tween the  people's  money  and  the  sovereign's  salary,  the 
first  milestone  in  the  elimination  of  graft  had  been  passed. 
The  second  epoch-marking  event  was  when  the  eighteenth 
century  muckrakers  of  England  forced  the  impeachment  of 
Warren  Hastings  and  broke  the  domination  of  the  East  India 
Company  over  the  British  Parliament. 

But  this  second  milestone  had  not  been  reached  at  this 
time.  England  ruled  the  waves  and  the  East  India  Company 
ruled  England.  But  a  legal  monopoly  always  engenders 
smuggling.  This  close  corporation  had  secured  laws  which 
forbade  any  outsiders  to  trade  in  the  East.  So  the  outsiders 
did  it  illegally.  The  London  financial  world  was  divided 
between  the  Company  and  the  Interlopers.  The  latter  got 
pretty  poor  pickings,  but  were  always  wide  awake,  always 
looking  for  some  chance  to  run  the  legal  blockade. 

340  PANAMA 

The  progressive  element  in  Scotland  saw  that  dividends 
were  rapidly  taking  the  place  of  divisions  of  booty  and  that  if 
their  country  was  to  have  any  reputation  in  the  great  world 
besides  that  of  being  a  good  recruiting  ground  for  mercenar- 
ies, they  must  have  some  commerce.  In  1693,  while  Paterson 
was  busy  in  London  founding  the  Bank  of  England,  the  Scots 
Parliament  passed  an  "Act  for  Encouraging  Foreign  Trade." 
In  effect  it  said  that  if  any  one  with  capital  wanted  to  get  a 
charter  for  a  trading  company,  Scotland  would  give  him  a 
more  liberal  franchise  than  any  other  country. 

When  news  of  this  act  drifted  into  London,  some  of  the 
Interlopers  pricked  up  their  ears  and  began  to  consider  the 
possibility  of  legalizing  their  Oriental  trade  under  the  Scotch 

In  May,  1695,  James  Chiesly,  a  notorious  Interloper, 
brought  a  proposition  to  Paterson.  Chiesly  had  a  vision  of 
breaking  into  the  Oriental  trade.  Paterson  saw  a  chance  of 
bringing  to  life  his  old  dream  of  a  world  centre  on  the  Isth- 
mus. But  his  early  experience  had  taught  him  that  financiers 
will  not  subscribe  to  a  dream.  So  he  kept  his  own  counsels 
about  Panama,  but  went  into  the  scheme  on  the  basis  which 
Chiesly  suggested.  Together  they  drew  up  a  bill  and,  at 
an  opportune  moment,  when  the  King  was  on  the  Continent 
fighting  Louis  XIV,  slipped  it  into  the  Scots  Parliament. 
After  two  weeks  of  discussion  in  committee,  the  bill — "An 
act  erecting  the  Company  of  Scotland,  trading  in  Africa  and 
the  Indies" — was  introduced  and  rushed  through  on  June 
25,  1695.  The  King's  Commissioner  touched  it  with  the 
royal  scepter  and  it  became  a  law. 

The  Scots  Parliament  had  certainly  kept  its  promise  of 
liberality.  The  act  created  a  monopoly  of  Scotch  foreign 
trade  for  thirty-one  years.  For  twenty-one  years  the  Com- 
pany was  exempt  from  all  taxation,  either  on  its  real  property 
or  its  imports.  In  return  for  this  fat  franchise  the  Company 




was  to  pay  the  Scotch  Crown  an  annual  tribute  of — one 
hogshead  of  tobacco !  Even  the  powerful  English  Company 
had  not  been  able  to  get  as  great  privileges  as  these  from 
their  parliament. 

The  original  plan  was  to  capitalize  the  Company  at 
£600,000.  Paterson  was  to  raise  half  the  amount  in  London. 
In  outlining  his  plan  of  campaign  to  the  directors  of  the  new 
company  he  wrote:  "And  for  Reasons,  we  ought  to  give 
none,  but  that  it  is  a  Fund  for  the  African  and  Indian 
Company.  For  if  we  are  not  able  to  raise  the  Fund  by  our 
Reputation,  we  shall  hardly  do  it  by  our  Reason." 

His  reputation  as  founder  of  the  Bank  of  England  was,  in 
fact,  good  for  twice  the  sum.  All  the  "  Interlopers  "  of  Lon- 
don were  keen  to  get  in  on  any  competition  to  the  English 
Company.  All  this  time,  whatever  his  private  plans,  Paterson 
never  mentioned  Panama.  The  Scots  company  was  put 
before  the  public  as  an  organization  for  Oriental  trade.  The 
London  fund  was  over-subscribed  in  a  few  days.  £175,000 
were  paid  in  cash. 

But  the  moment  Paterson  exploded  this  bomb,  the  English 
East  India  Company  woke  up.  First  of  all  they  forced  King 
William  to  denounce  the  new  venture  and  to  say  that  "he 
had  been  ill-served  in  Scotland."  They  pushed  a  bill  through 
the  English  Parliament  which  outlawed  the  Scotch  Company 
in  England.  Paterson  had  to  cancel  the  subscription  and 
refund  the  £175,000.  Some  of  the  English  citizens  who  had 
accepted  positions  in  the  directorate  were  indicted  for  high 
treason ! 

The  same  thing  happened  abroad.  In  Hamburg  and  Am- 
sterdam, Paterson  was  able  to  raise  large  subscriptions 
from  those  merchants  who  were  outside  the  great  trade 
combine.  But  the  "interests"  were  able  to  bring  effective 
pressure  to  bear  on  the  right  persons.  And  the  subscrip- 
tions had  to  be  cancelled. 

342  PANAMA 

The  Company  had  to  raise  its  capital  at  home.  Scotland 
was  not  a  rich  country — but  it  was  patriotic.  The  natives 
had  taken  little  interest  in  the  Company  until  it  had  been 
attacked  by  perfidious  Albion.  Now  it  became  a  national 
issue.  The  Scots  subscribed  £400,000,  an  immense  sum  for 
that  undeveloped  country.  The  first  call  of  twenty-five  per 
cent,  brought  in  £100,000  with  promptness.  The  subscribers 
ranged  from  duchesses  to  charwomen. 

This  was  a  much  smaller  sum  than  they  had  first  planned 
to  start  with.  But  with  good  management  they  might  have 
made  a  success  at  the  East  India  trade.  One  successful  trip 
around  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  and  back  often  paid  the 
whole  cost  of  the  ship  and  a  hundred  odd  per  cent,  profit. 
However,  Paterson  had  come  to  Scotland  and  in  secret 
conclave  he  had  opened  to  the  directors  his  Panama  dream. 
"This  door  of  the  seas,"  he  told  them,  "this  key  of  the 
universe,  with  anything  of  a  sort  of  good  management,  will 
of  course  enable  its  proprietors  to  give  laws  to  both  oceans 
and  to  become  arbitrators  of  the  commercial  world,  without 
being  liable  to  the  fatigues,  expenses  and  dangers  or  con- 
tracting the  guilt  and  blood  of  Alexander  and  Caesar." 

But  they  did  not  have  "anything  of  a  sort  of  good  manage- 
ment." Paterson's  scheme  was  impractical,  but  he  was  the 
most  practical  man  connected  with  the  Company.  His 
London  banker,  Smyth,  defaulted  for  £8,500  of  the  Com- 
pany's funds  and  although  Paterson  was  exonerated,  the 
affair  discredited  him.  So  the  directors  tried  to  carry  out 
his  scheme  without  his  assistance. 

They  spent  a  year  in  gathering  equipment.  Ships  were 
built  in  Amsterdam — it  is  said  that  Tsar  Peter  the  Great 
served  part  of  his  shipbuilding  apprenticeship  on  one  of 
them.  They  commissioned  five  "  Chirugean- Apothecaries  " 
to  collect  sufficient  medicaments  to  last  fifteen  hundred  men 
two  years.  One  agent  was  to  procure  as  many  pistols  from 


the  gunsmiths  of  Scotland  at  seventeen  shillings  a  pair  "as 
they'll  undertake."  They  ordered  two  hundred  oxen,  "the 
best  they  can  find  to  be  slaughtered  at  Leith."  They  bought 
twenty  tuns  of  brandy,  thirty  barrels  of  tobacco  pipes  and 
"£50  worth  of  Bibles  and  Catechisms."  'And  they  laid  in  a 
cargo  of  merchandise  for  trade  with  the  Indians.  Paterson's 
advice  in  selecting  this  equipment  would  have  been  inval- 
uable. They  neglected  it. 

In  March,  1698,  the  Company  issued  a  prospectus  calling 
for  volunteers  to  form  a  colony. 

"Every  one  who  goes  on  the  first  Equipage  shall  Receive 
and  Possess  Fifty  Acres  of  Plantation  Land  and  50  Foot 
Square  of  Ground  at  least  in  the  Chief  City  or  Town  and  an 
ordinary  House  built  thereupon  by  the  Company  at  the 
End  of  Three  Years." 

Their  prospectus  gave  no  information  as  to  where  the 
colony  was  to  be.  But  it  had  been  a  year  of  severe  famine 
in  Scotland.  The  Peace  of  Ryswick  had  deprived  many  of 
the  natives  of  their  regular  occupation — campaigning  in 
Flanders.  The  enterprise  had  become  a  national  fad.  It 
was  "Hurrah  for  the  Scots  Company  and  down  with  the 
English."  So  many  volunteered  that  the  directors  were  able 
to  withdraw  the  original  favorable  offer  and  recruit  twelve 
hundred  men  on  terms  which  amounted  to  indentured  serv- 
itude. There  were  also  three  hundred  gentleman  volunteers, 
most  of  whom  were  ex-officers  from  the  Dutch  Wars. 

When  everything  was  ready  the  split  in  the  board  of 
directors  between  the  Church  and  Kirk  parties,  which  had 
long  been  brewing,  came  to  a  head.  In  choosing  an  executive 
council  for  the  expedition,  the  Kirk  faction  won.  Whether 
or  not  the  Church  candidates  were  better  men  we  cannot  tell. 
But  the  seven  men  chosen  because  of  their  staunch  allegi- 
ance to  the  Presbyterian  form  of  church  government  were 
entirely  unfit.  In  all  the  output  of  pamphlets  for  and  against 

344  PANAMA 

the  Company — and  it  was  an  age  of  pamphleteering — I  have 
not  found  a  single  author  who  had  any  good  words  for  this 
council.  Paterson,  the  only  man  who  knew  anything  about 
trade  or  the  Indies,  was  not  one  of  them.  He  went  along  as 
a  gentleman  volunteer  with  "his  Wife,  her  Maid  and  his 
Clerk,  Thomas  Fenton." 

On  July  26,  1698,  the  fleet,  three  ships  and  two  tenders, 
sailed  from  Leith.  The  council  had  received  "sealed  orders" 
to  be  opened  at  Madeira.  Very  few  of  all  the  expedition 
knew  their  destination.  A  few  days  out  they  took  an  invoice 
of  their  cargo  and  provision  and  so  discovered  a  new  fraud. 
Someone — it  seems  to  have  been  with  the  connivance  of 
some  of  the  directors — had  falsified  the  bills  of  lading.  In- 
stead of  provisions  for  six  months,  they  had  barely  enough 
for  two. 

August  29th  they  reached  Madeira.  The  orders  instructed 
them  to  proceed  to  the  "Golden  Island  in  the  Bay  of  Acla" 
and  found  a  colony  to  be  called  New  Caledonia.  One  of  the 
councillors  resigned  apparently  in  disgust  when  he  discov- 
ered that  they  were  not  going  to  the  East  Indies,  and  Pater- 
son  was  elected  in  his  place.  But  the  council  had  already 
acquired  the  habit  of  distrust  and  mutual  suspicion.  They 
spent  some  time  at  Madeira  replenishing  their  scanty  pro- 
visions. The  gentleman  volunteers  parted  with  most  of  their 
rich  garments  in  exchange  for  wine  and  food. 

On  November  1st  they  reached  their  destination.  The 
Indians  welcomed  them.  The  tribes  of  the  San  Bias  coast 
had  always  been  at  war  with  the  Spaniards;  they  had  fre- 
quently been  valuable  allies  to  the  English  buccaneers.  And 
they  received  the  Scots  with  enthusiasm.  Mr.  Rose's  diary 
for  November  8th  says  "Wind  and  Weather  as  above.  There 
hath  been  a  great  number  of  Indians  aboard  the  ships, 
whom  wee  use  very  kindly  and  who  consume  a  great  deal  of 


The  new  town,  to  be  called  New  Edinburgh,  was  at  once 
started,  as  was  also  the  Fort  of  St.  Andrew  at  the  mouth  of 
the  bay.  But  the  quarrels  among  the  council,  which  had 
started  before  they  were  out  of  sight  of  Scotland,  now  broke 
out  with  redoubled  venom  over  the  question  of  who  should 
be  chief  executive  of  the  colony.  At  last  they  adopted  the 
insane  expedient  of  having  each  councillor  in  turn  serve  for 
one  week. 

In  a  letter  which  they  sent  home  to  the  directors  in 
December,  1698,  it  is  evident  that  the  colony  is  already  in 
a  bad  way.  A  list  is  given  of  the  dead.  Forty-four  had  died 
on  the  trip  out,  including  the  two  ministers,  and  thirty-two 
more  had  died  between  landing  and  Christmas  Day.  In  one 
case  the  cause  of  death  was  given  as  "decay,"  another  "died 
suddenly  after  warm  walking,"  four  had  been  drowned.  All 
the  rest  had  fallen  victims  to  either  "Flux"  or  "Fever." 
In  this  list  are  the  names  of  Paterson's  wife  and  clerk  and  of 
a  boy  who  seems  to  have  been  his  son. 

Another  cause  of  trouble  was  that  while  most  of  the  coun- 
cil were  strict  members  of  the  Kirk,  the  rank  and  file  were  the 
rapscallion  remnants  from  the  wars  in  the  low  countries. 
The  moral  ideas  of  the  council  were  even  stricter  than  those 
of  the  Plymouth  colony.  But  if  they  had  put  all  the  Sabbath 
breakers  in  the  stocks — as  they  thought  they  ought  to  do — • 
there  would  have  been  no  laborers  left  to  build  houses  nor 
till  the  fields.  In  this  December  letter  to  the  officials  at  home 
the  council  laments  over  the  godlessness  of  their  flock  and 
begs  the  Company  to  send  them  some  powerful  preachers  on 
the  next  boat. 

But  in  spite  of  these  troubles  they  issued  on  December 
28th  a  resounding  proclamation.  The  following  paragraph 
with  its  strange  mixture  of  Paterson's  dream  of  universal 
free  trade  and  the  religious  fanaticism  of  the  Kirk  party  is 
typical  of  the  entire  enterprise. 

346  PANAMA 

"And  we  do  hereby  not  only  grant  and  concede  and 
declare  a  general  and  equal  freedom  of  government  and 
trade  to  those  of  all  nations  who  shall  hereafter  be  of  or  con- 
cerned with  us;  but  also  a  full  and  free  liberty  of  Conscience 
in  matters  of  Religion,  so  as  the  same  be  not  understood  to 
allow,  connive  at,  or  indulge  the  blasphemy  of  God's  Holy 
Name  or  any  of  His  Divine  Attributes,  or  the  unhallowing 
or  profaning  of  the  Sabbath  Day." 

Trouble  was  also  threatening  them  from  their  Spanish 
neighbors.  The  San  Bias  Indians  were  beginning  to  get 
impatient  for  the  expected  war.  But  the  colonists  wanted 
peace — which  was  of  course  impossible.  Even  if  the  Spanish 
king  had  approved  of  their  settling  in  his  territory,  it  would 
have  been  impossible  for  the  Kirk  and  the  Inquisition  to  have 
existed  side  by  side. 

On  February  5th  a  small  boat,  the  Dolphin  Snow,  belonging 
to  the  Scots  was  driven  by  a  storm  onto  the  rocks  near  the 
Spanish  citadel  of  Cartagena.  The  crew  were  imprisoned 
as  pirates  and  sent  to  Spain  for  trial.  The  same  day  the 
Indians  reported  that  some  soldiers  were  approaching  over- 
land from  Panama.  And  on  the  6th  there  was  a  skirmish. 
The  Spaniards  were  only  a  scouting  party  and  were  easily 
driven  back.  When  the  news  of  the  Dolphin  Snow's  fate 
reached  the  colony  they  declared  war  by  granting  letters- 
of-mark  to  a  Captain  Pilkington.  He  cruised  up  and  down 
the  coast,  but  only  succeeded  in  capturing  a  deserted  schooner 
which  was  probably  the  property  of  some  pirate. 

Meanwhile  their  enemies  in  England  had  not  been  quiet. 
The  great  East  India  Company  had  doubtless  been  relieved 
to  hear  that,  instead  of  going  in  for  the  sure  profits  of  the 
Orient,  they  had  launched  a  very  doubtful  venture  in  the 
New  World.  But  the  London  merchants  were  not  the  kind 
to  brook  any  competition  and  they  at  last  succeeded  in  forcing 
King  William  to  emphasize  his  repudiation  of  the  Scots  Com- 


pany  by  sending  out  a  proclamation  to  all  the  colonial 
governors  forbidding  them  to  give  any  aid  or  countenance, 
or  to  enter  into  any  intercourse  with  the  Darien  Colony. 
On  April  5th  Governor  Beeston  published  the  proclamation 
in  Kingston,  Jamaica.  About  the  same  time  similar  action 
was  taken  by  the  governors  of  Barbadoes  and  New  York. 
But  the  vexation  which  his  Scotch  subjects  had  caused  the 
King  was  by  no  means  over.  On  May  3d  his  morning's  mail 
contained  an  elaborate  document  which  began  as  follows: 

"The  Under-Subscriber,  Ambassador  Extraordinary  from 
his  Catholick  Majesty,  finds  himself  obliged  by  express  Or- 
ders, to  represent  to  your  Majesty,  that  the  King,  his  Master, 
having  received  Information  from  different  Places  and  last 
of  all  from  the  Governor  of  Havana,  of  the  Insult  and  Attempt 
of  some  Scots  Ships,  equipp'd  with  Men  and  other  Things 
requisite,  who  design  to  settle  themselves  in  his  Majesty's 
Sovereign  Domains  in  America  and  particularly  the  Province 
of  Darien,  His  Majesty  receiv'd  those  Advices  with  much 
Discontent  and  looks  upon  the  same  as  a  Token  of  small 
Friendship  and  as  a  Rupture  of  the  Alliance  betwixt  the  two 
Crowns.  .  ,  ."  These  Scotch  traders  had  not  only  set 
his  own  kingdoms  by  the  ears,  but  were  threatening  to  in- 
volve him  in  a  foreign  war! 

It  took  some  time  for  the  news  of  these  hostile  proclama- 
tions to  reach  the  colonists.  Meanwhile  sickness  increased 
apace,  no  reinforcements  came  from  home,  dissensions  grew 
in  the  council.  News  came  from  every  side  that  the  Spaniards 
were  threatening  an  attack.  A  French  trading  vessel  brought 
the  report  that  Armadas  were  being  fitted  out  at  Cartagena 
and  Puerto  Bello.  The  Indians  told  of  large  bodies  of  troops 
advancing  from  Panama.  Sir  Henry  Morgan  had  crossed  the 
Isthmus  with  a  handful  of  men  and  had  sacked  that  metrop- 
olis of  the  southern  sea.  But  these  nine  hundred  odd  Scotch- 
men— emaciated  by  the  fever,  split  into  hostile  cliques — were 

348  PANAMA 

not  of  the  same  spirit.  When  the  news  of  the  proclamation 
shutting  off  all  hope  of  provisions  or  reinforcements  from  any 
place  nearer  than  Scotland  fell  on  them  like  a  thunderbolt, 
they  all  clamored  for  a  speedy  retreat.  A  few  brave  spirits 
tried  to  hold  the  colony  together.  But  on  June  5th  Paterson 
was  hit  by  the  fever — and  then  it  became  a  scramble  to  get 
on  board.  The  last  boat,  carrying  the  delirious  Paterson, 
left  the  harbor  on  June  20th.  She  carried  two  hundred  and 
fifty  deserters.  They  had  a  terrible  voyage;  one  hundred 
and  fifty  of  them  had  died  before  they  rounded  Sandy  Hook 
on  the  13th  of  August. 

Meanwhile  the  Company  at  home,  having  no  news  of  this 
disaster,  was  sending  out  glowing  accounts  of  the  colony. 
One  of  them,  "A  Letter,  giving  a  Description  of  the  Isthmus 
of  Darien  (where  the  Scot's  Colonie  is  settled)"  is  typical. 
It  describes  an  earthly  Paradise  as  fanciful  as  that  Garden 
of  Perpetual  Youth  which  had  enticed  Ponce  de  Leon. 
Another,  "The  History  of  Caledonia,  or  The  Scot's  Colony 
in  Darien  in  the  West  Indies.  With  an  Account  of  the 
Manners  of  the  Inhabitants  and  Richs  of  the  Country.  By 
a  Gentleman  lately  Arriv'd"  says  "The  Valleys  are  watered 
with  Rivers  and  Perpetual  clear  Springs,  which  are  most 
pleasant  to  drink,  being  as  soft  as  Milk  and  very  Nourish- 
ing." Still  another  prospectus  writer  says:  "We  saw  Am- 
brosio's  (a  native  chief)  Grandmother  there  who  is  120  years 
old  and  yet  very  active.  .  .  .  The  People  live  here  to  be  150 
and  160  Years  of  Age."  Not  content  with  prose  the  enthu- 
siasm gave  birth  to  verse.  A  rhymed  advertisement  entitled 
"A  Poem  upon  the  Undertaking  of  the  Royal  Company  of 
Scotland,  trading  to  Africa  and  The  Indies,"  contains  this 
lyrical  outburst: 

"The  Company  designs  a  Colony 
To  which  all  Nations  freely  may  resort 
And  find  quick  Justice  in  an  Open  Port." 


On  the  basis  of  this  publicity  campaign  the  Company  was 
able  to  collect  another  £100,000  of  the  subscribed  capital. 
Just  when  the  first  colony  was  deserting  New  Edinburgh, 
two  ships,  The  Olive  Branch  and  the  Hopeful  Binning  of 
Bo'ness  and  three  hundred  settlers  sailed  from  Scotland. 
They  arrived  at  the  deserted  fort  of  St.  Andrew  on  the  same 
day  in  August  when  the  wreck  of  the  first  expedition  was 
docking  in  New  York.  While  they  were  deciding  whether 
or  not  to  land,  some  roysterers  of  the  crew  broke  into  the 
hold  of  the  Olive  Branch  to  get  some  brandy,  and  in  their 
drunkenness  set  her  on  fire.  She  burned  down  to  the  water 
with  the  greater  part  of  their  provisions.  The  disheart- 
ened colonists  crowded  on  board  the  Hopeful  Binning  and 
voted  to  give  it  up.  However,  twelve  brave  men  re- 
fused to  turn  back;  they  landed  with  a  few  provisions 
and  watched  this  second  expedition  sail  away  to  Jamaica. 
An  epidemic  broke  out  on  the  crowded  ship  and  most 
of  them  died  before,  or  immediately  after,  reaching  Kings- 

The  Company,  knowing  nothing  of  all  this,  was  busy  col- 
lecting money  and  fitting  out  a  third  and  greatest  expedition. 
By  the  middle  of  September,  four  fine  ships,  The  Rising  Sun, 
The  Hope,  The  Duke  of  Hamilton,  and  The  Hope  of  Bo'ness, 
with  thirteen  hundred  men  aboard,  were  riding  at  anchor  in 
the  Clyde.  About  the  20th  rumors  came  from  New  York 
about  the  abandonment  of  New  Edinburgh.  The  directors 
dispatched  an  express  to  the  fleet  telling  the  councillors  not 
to  leave  until  further  orders.  These  worthy  gentlemen, 
fearing  that  delay  might  mean  that  someone  else  was  to  be 
put  in  their  places,  disobeyed  orders  and  set  sail.  It  was 
the  24th  of  September,  1699,  when  they  left  the  Clyde.  One 
hundred  and  sixty  died  on  the  trip  out.  They  arrived  in  the 
harbor  of  New  Edinburgh  on  the  30th  of  November,  and  were 
mightily  dismayed  to  find  no  one  there  but  the  twelve  men 

350  PANAMA 

who  had  lived  with  the  Indians  since  the  burning  of  The 
Olive  Branch. 

James  Byres,  a  pillar  of  the  Kirk,  urged  a  retreat,  saying 
that  "they  were  come  not  to  settle  a  colony,  but  to  reinforce 
one."  For  once  he  was  overruled  and  the  company  landed. 
By  some  strange  chance  this  arrant  coward  became  the 
dominant  power  in  the  council.  After  it  was  all  over  the 
board  of  directors,  after  an  investigation  of  his  conduct, 
declared  that  he  had  "not  only  violated  the  trust  reposed 
in  him  by  the  Company,  .  .  .  but  was  also  guilty  of  several 
unwarrantable,  arbitrary,  illegal  and  inhuman  actings  and 

They  had  hardly  landed  when  Byres  started  a  trial  for 
high  treason — over  which  he  had  no  legal  jurisdiction — and 
on  very  slim  testimony  executed  a  man  named  Alexander 

Once  more  the  colonists  discovered  that  there  had  been 
fraud  in  the  outfitting  of  the  expedition.  The  merchandise 
which  they  had  been  told  was  worth  many  thousand  pounds 
in  colonial  trade,  turned  out  to  be  valueless.  "We  cannot 
conceive,"  they  wrote  to  the  directors,  "for  what  end  so 
much  thin  gray  paper  and  so  many  little  blue  bonnets  were 
sent  here,  being  entirely  useless  and  not  worth  their  room 
in  the  ship."  Some  of  the  directors  who  were  overstocked 
in  these  commodities  had  unloaded  them  profitably  on  the 
colonists.  They  also  found  that  there  was  not  nearly  so 
much  brandy  on  board  as  they  had  paid  for. 

Strong  drink  played  a  role  in  this  enterprise  which  is 
hardly  conceivable  to  people  of  to-day.  That  men  who  were 
such  ardent  defenders  of  the  Kirk  should  have  been  shame- 
less drunkards  seems  strange  in  this  age  when  most  of  our 
clergy  are  prominent  in  the  temperance  movement. 

A  letter  from  the  directors  to  the  colony,  dated  June  13th, 
1700,  contains  this  surprising  recommendation: 


"We  understand  that  Andrew  Livingston,  Chirurgeon,  late 
prisoner  in  Cartagena,  has  made  his  escape  and  returned 
to  the  Colony.  We,  therefore,  desire  that  for  the  said  Andrew 
Livingston's  encouragement  at  present,  you  would  order  him 
four  gallons  of  brandy  for  his  proper  use,  over  and  above  the 
common  allowance." 

The  General  Assembly  of  the  Kirk  of  Scotland  had  ap- 
pointed four  ministers  to  accompany  this  third  expedition. 
They  were  especially  instructed  to  convert  the  savages  and 
Spaniards.  However,  the  ministers  seem  to  have  considered 
any  missionary  work  as  impossible.  They  gave  most  of  their 
attention  to  the  colonists  and  were  a  source  of  constant 

The  Rev.  Mr.  Francis  Borland,  one  of  the  four,  wrote  a 
"History  of  Darien."  It  is  rather  dreary  reading,  mostly 
given  up  to  complaints  and  on  the  whole  tends  to  substantiate 
the  claim  of  Sir  John  Dalrymple  that  these  ministers  were 
the  principal  cause  of  the  disorganization  and  disaster  which 
overwhelmed  the  colony. 

"The  people  that  our  Company  of  Scotland  sent  over, 
hither,"  Borland  writes,  "were  most  of  them  .  .  .  none  of 
the  best  of  men.  And  therefore  the  Ministers  sent  along 
with  them  had  small  comfort  in  their  company;  their  in- 
structions and  admonitions  were  but  little  regarded  by  them; 
many  of  them  seldom,  and  some  of  them  never,  attending  the 
public  worship  of  God." 

These  ministers  expected  to  be  "comforted"  instead  of  to 
act  as  "comforters." 

When  they  arrived  at  New  Edinburgh  and  found  it 
deserted  they  announced  that  it  was  the  evident  Wrath  of 
God  because  of  the  impiety  of  the  company.  They  got  up 
an  amazing  document — it  is  quoted  at  length  in  Borland 
and  seems  to  have  been  written  by  him — ordering  the  council 
to  set  aside  a  day  for  Thanksgiving,  Humility  and  Prayer. 

352  PANAMA 

Among  the  sins  enumerated  were  "atheistical  swearing  and 
cursing."  There  is  something  pathetic  in  the  thought  of 
these  ex-soldiers  of  Flanders,  suddenly  brought  to  book  for 
swearing.  January  3,  1700,  was  the  day  chosen  by  the 
council.  Three  sermons  were  preached,  one  on  Thanksgiving, 
one  on  Humility  and  one  on  Prayer.  The  service  lasted  until 
three  in  the  afternoon.  And  this  was  only  a  beginning. 
Dalrymple  writes:  "They  exhausted  the  patience  of  the 
people  by  long  services.  ...  In  addition  to  the  usual  ob- 
servation of  the  Sabbath,  Wednesday  was  selected  as  a  day 
of  devotion;  and  so  much  was  the  regular  service  augmented 
that  it  frequently  lasted  twelve  hours  without  interruption." 

But  the  greatest  cause  of  their  unpopularity  was  their 
arrogance.  They  refused  to  work.  The  colony  was  faced 
by  the  necessity  of  creating  a  town,  tilling  fields  for  its  main- 
tenance, building  forts  for  its  protection.  In  this  work  the 
ministers  would  take  no  part.  Besides  demanding  that  the 
workers  should  give  up  two  precious  days  a  week  to  hearing 
their  sermons,  they  insisted  that  first  of  all  four  manses 
should  be  built  for  them.  Any  one  who  suggested  that  some- 
thing else  might  be  more  important  than  their  comfort  they 
denounced  as  godless  and  impious.  Through  Byres  they 
managed  to  rule  the  council. 

These  four  men  furnish  a  strange  contrast  to  the  other 
efforts  to  transplant  the  religions  of  Europe  to  the  New 
World.  Catholicism  seriously  tried  to  convert  the  aborigines. 
Some  of  the  priests  sent  out  by  the  Council  of  the  Indies 
were  despicable  men.  But  on  the  whole  it  was  one  of  the 
most  devoted  and  spiritual  missionary  movements  in  the 
history  of  the  church — as  it  was  also  the  most  successful. 

The  Protestant  colonies  hardly  made  any  effort  to  convert 
the  Indians.  And  on  the  whole  the  few  devoted  men  who 
tried  to  failed.  But  of  all  efforts  to  establish  European 
denominations  in  America  this  attempt  of  the  Kirk  of  Scot- 


land  was  the  most  dismal  failure.  The  Puritans  of  New 
England  did  not  differ  from  them  much  in  theology.  The  old 
" Round  Head"  philosophy,  " Trust  in  God  and  keep  your 
powder  dry"  carried  the  Plymouth  Colony  over  its  hard 
places.  These  Scotch  Presbyterians  did  not  realize  the  value 
of  dry  powder. 

Things  got  so  bad  at  last  that  nine  men  stole  a  canoe  and 
deserted,  preferring  rather  to  risk  the  Spanish  prisons  than 
to  live  longer  in  this  Kirk-ridden  colony. 

The  Indians  began  bringing  in  news  of  war  preparations 
on  the  part  of  the  Spaniards.  But  Byres  scoffed  at  such  news. 
And  the  Rev.  Mr.  Francis  Borland  preached  an  able  sermon 
on  the  Scarlet  Woman  of  Rome.  However,  when  the  danger 
became  imminent,  Byres  appointed  himself  a  delegate  to 
go  to  Jamaica  to  try  to  persuade  the  governor  to  ignore  the 
royal  proclamation  and  give  them  some  provisions. 

In  a  letter  of  the  Rev.  Alexander  Shields  dated  February 
21st,  just  after  Byres  had  decided  it  was  time  for  him  to 
leave,  I  find  this  description  of  conditions: 

"Our  sickness  did  so  increase  (above  220  at  the  same  time 
in  fever  and  fluxes)  and  our  rotten  provisions  were  found 
to  be  so  far  exhausted,  that  we  were  upon  the  very  point 
of  leaving."  They  were  prevented  from  abandoning  the 
colony,  he  continues,  by  the  direct  intervention  of  Provi- 

This  Divine  Help  consisted  in  a  shipload  of  provisions 
and,  what  was  even  more  important,  a  real  man — Captain 
Campbell  of  Finab.  He  was  of  the  Kirk  party,  but  at  the 
same  time  had  a  valuable  fund  of  common  sense.  He  put  his 
foot  down  on  the  petty  squabbles  of  the  council,  put  men  of 
action  in  the  posts  of  importance  and  mustered  a  little  army. 
On  the  14th  of  February  he  made  a  dash  into  the  jungle, 
guided  by  the  allied  Indians,  surprised  and  completely 
destroyed  a  large  force  of  Spanish  soldiers  from  Panama 

354  PANAMA 

Neither  Drake  nor  Sir  Henry  Morgan  could  boast  of  a  more 
brilliant  feat  of  arms. 

The  ship  in  which  Captain  Campbell  had  come  returned 
to  Scotland  with  an  account  of  this  victory.  When  the  news 
got  abroad  in  Edinburgh  the  famous  "Pate  Steil's  Parlia- 
ment" assembled  in  the  "Cross  Keys  Tavern"  and  decreed 
that  the  city  should  be  illuminated.  They  broke  into  St. 
Giles  Church.  And  soon  the  chimes,  clanging  out  the  ribald 
tune,  "Wilful  Willie,  wilst  thou  be  wilful  still,"  sent  all  the 
housewives  scurrying  about  for  candles.  All  Edinburgh 
understood  and  knew  what  it  meant  to  disobey  the  decrees 
of  the  people.  All  night  long  the  mob  wandered  through  the 
streets,  throwing  stones  through  every  window  which  was 
not  lit  up.  Old  Edinburgh  had  not  had  such  a  celebration 
in  many  years.  Once  more  the  "Company"  became  the 
popular  enthusiasm  of  the  nation. 

But  this  good  news  was  the  last  to  come  out  of  New  Edin- 
burgh. On  the  23d  of  February  eight  Spanish  men-of-war 
arrived  off  the  harbor  and  began  the  blockade.  Two  days 
later  they  were  reinforced  by  three  more  ships-of-the-line. 
The  wrath  of  the  Catholic  king  over  this  Presbyterian  inva- 
sion had  been  slow  moving,  but  it  was  formidable.  They 
landed  forces  on  both  sides  of  the  colony  and  began  a  regular 

Captain  Campbell  led  a  number  of  brilliant  sorties.  But 
the  Spaniards  stuck  to  their  trenches — which  they  were 
gradually  pushing  forward — and  refused  to  risk  a  fight  in 
the  open.  On  the  17th  of  March  the  Scots  were  forced  out 
of  their  advance  works  and  driven  back  into  their  main  fort. 
By  the  21st  the  Spaniards  had  pushed  their  trenches  to 
within  musket  shot  and  so  had  cut  off  the  supply  of  fresh 
water.  In  the  records  which  the  Scots  left  I  find  these 
phrases:  "The  bread  was  mouldy  and  corrupt  with  worms, 
and  the  flesh  most  unsavory  and  ill-scented."  .  .  .  "Some- 


times  we  buried  sixteen  men  in  a  day."  .  .  .  "We  could 
hardly  make  out  300  able  men  fit  for  service. "  .  .  .  "The 
water  in  our  casks  was  sour." 

On  the  31st  of  March  they  came  to  the  end  of  their  endur- 
ance and  surrendered,  on  condition  that  they  could  leave 
"with  their  colours  flying,  and  drums  beating,  together  with 
their  arms  and  ammunition  and  with  all  their  goods." 

They  were  so  worn  by  hunger  and  disease  that  the  Span- 
iards helped  them  get  their  ships  out  of  the  harbor.  It  was 
the  llth  of  April,  1700,  when  they  finally  left.  The  sickness 
which  had  decimated  them  ashore  followed  them  aboard  and 
became  epidemic.  Out  of  the  thirteen  hundred  who  had 
sailed  from  the  Clyde  only  three  hundred  and  sixty  lived 
through  the  expedition.  The  survivors  "were  mostly  dis- 
persed in  Jamaica  and  the  English  settlements  of  America, 
and  very  few  returned  to  Scotland." 

"The  Company  of  Scotland,  trading  to  Africa  and  The 
Indies"  was  bankrupt.  They  had  squandered  two  thousand 
lives  and  over  £200,000  on  Paterson's  dream. 

But  the  dreamer,  recovering  from  the  fever  in  New  York, 
returned  to  Scotland  and  became  again  the  practical  man  of 
affairs.  Paterson  spent  the  remainder  of  his  life  in  a  success- 
ful effort  to  pay  back  twenty  shillings  to  the  pound  on  this 
immense  debt. 



GREAT  as  were  the  depredations  of  the  "  Lutheran  Pirates," 
this  was  not  the  main  reason  for  the  decline  of  the  Spanish 

" Panama,"  writes  Bancroft,  "had  comparatively  little 
indigenous  wealth  and  was  largely  dependent  for  prosperity 
on  Spain's  colonial  policy.  Unfortunately  this  was  char- 
acterized by  a  short-sightedness  which  eventually  proved 
disastrous  both  to  the  province  and  empire." 

After  the  first  rush  of  golden  spoils  from  Peru  had  crossed 
the  Isthmus,  its  prosperity  began  to  decline.  For  a  while 
the  silver  from  the  Potosi  mines  and  scattering  consignments 
of  booty  from  the  west  coast  of  Central  America  furnished  an 
appearance  of  business  activity.  But  gradually  these  sources 
of  wealth  ran  dry,  and  no  local  industries,  either  on  the 
Isthmus  itself  or  in  the  colonies  which  used  it  as  a  trade  route, 
had  been  developed.  And  so  gradually  the  life  of  Panama 
was  smothered.  No  more  expeditions  outfitted  in  its  harbor. 
No  returning  argosies  brought  commerce  to  its  market  place. 
The  death  rate  from  "fevers  and  fluxes"  continued  high  and 
fewer  and  fewer  immigrants  arrived  from  Europe.  Even 
the  Creoles  born  on  the  Isthmus  left  for  more  healthy  cli- 
mates. Very  few  whites  remained  in  the  city  which  had 
been  once  so  proud. 

Mr.  Haring  in  the  introductory  chapters  of  his  "The 
Buccaneers  in  the  West  Indies"  gives  a  very  able  analysis 
of  the  fundamental  causes  which  led  up  to  this  remarkable 


THE    DECLINE    OF    THE   SPANISH   EMPIEE         357 

"At  the  time  of  the  discovery  of  America  the  Spaniards, 
as  M.  Leroy-Beaulieu  has  remarked,  were  perhaps  less 
fitted  than  any  other  nation  in  Western  Europe  for  the  task 
of  American  colonization.  Whatever  may  have  been  the 
political  role  thrust  upon  them  in  the  sixteenth  century  by  the 
Hapsburg  marriages,  whatever  certain  historians  may  say  of 
the  grandeur  and  nobility  of  the  Spanish  national  character, 
Spain  was  then  neither  rich  nor  populous,  nor  industrious. 
For  centuries  she  had  been  called  upon  to  wage  a  continuous 
warfare  with  the  Moors,  and  during  this  time  had  not  only 
found  little  leisure  to  cultivate  the  arts  of  peace,  but  had 
acquired  a  certain  disdain  for  manual  work  which  helped 
to  mould  her  colonial  administration  and  influenced  all  her 
subsequent  history.  And  when  the  termination  of  the  last 
of  these  wars  left  her  mistress  of  a  united  Spain,  and  the 
exploitation  of  her  own  resources  seemed  to  require  all  the 
energies  she  could  muster,  an  entire  new  hemisphere  was 
suddenly  thrown  open  to  her,  and  given  into  her  hands  by  a 
papal  decree  to  possess  and  populate.  Already  weakened 
by  the  exile  of  the  most  sober  and  industrious  of  her  popula- 
tion, the  Jews;  drawn  into  a  foreign  policy  for  which  she 
had  neither  the  means  nor  the  inclination;  instituting  at 
home  an  economic  policy  which  was  almost  epileptic  in  its 
consequences,  she  found  her  strength  dissipated,  and  gradu- 
ally sank  into  a  condition  of  economic  and  political  im- 
potence. .  .  . 

"The  colonization  of  the  Spanish  Indies,  on  its  social  and 
administrative  side,  presents  a  curious  contrast.  On  the  one 
hand,  we  see  the  Spanish  Crown,  with  high  ideals  of  order 
and  justice,  of  religious  and  political  unity,  extending  to  its 
ultramarine  possessions  its  faith,  its  language,  its  laws  and 
its  administration ;  providing  for  the  welfare  of  the  aborigines 
with  paternal  solicitude;  endeavoring  to  restrain  and  temper 
the  passions  of  the  conquerors;  building  churches  and  founding 

358  PANAMA 

schools  and  monasteries;  in  a  word,  trying  to  make  its  colonies 
an  integral  part  of  the  Spanish  monarchy.  .  .  .  Some 
Spanish  writers,  it  is  true,  have  exaggerated  the  virtues  of 
their  old  colonial  system;  yet  that  system  had  excellencies 
which  we  cannot  afford  to  despise.  If  the  Spanish  kings  had 
not  choked  their  government  with  procrastination  and  rou- 
tine; if  they  had  only  taken  their  task  a  bit  less  seriously 
and  had  not  tried  to  apply  too  strictly  to  an  empty  continent 
the  paternal  administration  of  an  older  country,  we  might 
have  been  privileged  to  witness  the  development  and  opera- 
tion of  as  complete  and  benign  a  system  of  colonial  govern- 
ment as  has  been  devised  in  modern  times.  The  public 
initiative  of  the  Spanish  government,  and  the  care  with 
which  it  selected  its  colonies,  compare  very  favorably  with 
the  opportunism  of  the  English  and  French,  who  colonized 
by  chance  private  activity  and  sent  the  worst  elements  of 
their  population,  criminals  and  vagabonds,  to  people  their 
new  settlements  across  the  sea.  However  much  we  may 
deprecate  the  treatment  of  the  Indians  by  the  conquistadores, 
we  must  not  forget  that  the  greater  part  of  the  population 
of  Spanish  America  to-day  is  still  Indian,  and  that  no  other 
colonizing  people  have  succeeded  like  the  Spaniards  in 
assimilating  and  civilizing  the  natives.  The  code  of  laws 
which  the  Spaniards  gradually  evolved  for  the  rule  of  their 
transmarine  provinces,  was,  in  spite  of  defects  which  are 
visible  only  to  the  larger  experience  of  the  present  day,  one 
of  the  wisest,  most  humane  and  best  coordinated  of  any  to 
this  day  published  for  any  colony.  Although  the  Spaniards 
had  to  deal  with  a  large  population  of  barbarous  natives, 
the  word  "conquest"  was  suppressed  in  legislation  as  ill- 
sounding,  ' because  the  peace  is  to  be  sealed,'  they  said, 
'not  with  the  sound  of  arms,  but  with  charity  and  good- 

"The  actual  results,  however,  of  the  social  policy  of  the 

THE   DECLINE    OF    THE   SPANISH   EMPIEE         359 

Spanish  kings  fell  far  below  the  ideals  they  had  set  for  them- 
selves. The  monarchic  spirit  of  the  crown  was  so  strong 
that  it  crushed  every  healthy  expansive  tendency  in  the  new 
countries.  It  burdened  the  colonies  with  numerous  privi- 
leged nobility,  who  congregated  mostly  in  the  larger  towns, 
and  set  to  the  rest  of  the  colonists  a  pernicious  example  of 
idleness  and  luxury.  In  its  zeal  for  the  propagation  of  the 
Faith,  the  Crown  constituted  a  powerfully  endowed  church, 
which,  while  it  did  splendid  service  in  converting  and  civiliz- 
ing the  natives,  engrossed  much  of  the  land  in  the  form  of 
mainmort,  and  filled  the  new  world  with  thousands  of  idle, 
unproductive,  and  often  licentious  friars.  .  .  . 

"In  this  fashion  was  transferred  to  America  the  crushing 
political  and  ecclesiastical  absolutism  of  the  mother  country. 
Self-reliance  and  independence  of  thought  or  action  on  the 
part  of  the  Creoles  were  discouraged,  divisions  and  factions 
among  them  were  encouraged  and  educational  opportunities 
restricted,  and  the  American-born  Spaniards  gradually  sank 
into  idleness  and  lethargy,  indifferent  to  all  but  childish 
honours  and  distinctions  and  petty  local  jealousies.  To 
make  matters  worse,  many  of  the  Spaniards  who  crossed  the 
seas  to  the  American  colonies  came  not  to  colonize,  not  to 
trade  or  cultivate  the  soil,  so  much  as  to  extract  from  the 
natives  a  tribute  of  gold  and  silver.  The  Indians,  instead  of 
being  protected  and  civilized,  were  only  too  often  reduced  to 
serfdom  and  confined  to  a  laborious  routine  for  which  they 
had  neither  aptitude  nor  the  strength;  while  the  government 
at  home  was  too  distant  to  interfere  effectively  in  their 
behalf.  Driven  by  cruel  taskmasters  they  died  by  thousands 
from  exhaustion  and  despair,  and  in  some  places  entirely 
disappeared.  .  .  . 

"In  the  colonies  the  most  striking  feature  of  Spanish 
economic  policy  was  its  wastefulness.  After  the  conquest 
of  the  New  World,  it  was  to  the  interest  of  the  Spaniards  to 

360  PANAMA 

gradually  wean  the  native  Indians  from  barbarism  by 
teaching  them  the  arts  and  sciences  of  Europe,  to  encourage 
such  industries  as  were  favored  by  the  soil,  and  to  furnish 
the  growing  colonies  with  those  articles  which  they  could 
not  produce  themselves,  and  of  which  they  stood  in  need. 
Only  thus  could  they  justify  their  monopolies  of  the  markets 
of  Spanish  America.  .  .  .  Queen  Isabella  wished  to 
carry  out  this  policy,  introduced  into  the  newly-discovered 
islands  wheat,  the  olive  and  the  vine,  and  acclimatized  many 
of  the  European  domestic  animals.  Her  efforts,  unfortunate- 
ly, were  not  seconded  by  her  successors,  nor  by  the  Spaniards 
who  went  to  the  Indies.  In  time  the  government  itself, 
as  well  as  the  colonist,  came  to  be  concerned,  not  so  much 
with  the  agricultural  products  of  the  Indies,  but  with  the 
return  of  the  precious  metals.  Natives  were  made  to  work 
the  mines,  while  many  regions  adapted  to  agriculture,  Guiana, 
Caracas  and  Buenos  Ayres,  were  neglected,  and  the  peopling 
of  the  colonies  by  Europeans  was  slow.  The  emperor, 
Charles  V,  did  little  to  stem  this  tendency,  but  drifted  along 
with  the  tide.  Immigration  was  restricted  to  keep  the  col- 
onies free  from  contamination  of  heresy  and  of  foreigners. 
The  Spanish  population  was  concentrated  in  cities,  and  the 
country  divided  into  great  estates  granted  by  the  crown 
to  the  families  of  the  conquistadores  or  to  favorites  at  court. 
The  immense  areas  of  Peru,  Buenos  Ayres  and  Mexico  were 
submitted  to  the  most  unjust  and  arbitrary  regulations, 
with  no  object  but  to  stifle  growing  industry  and  put  them 
in  absolute  dependence  upon  the  metropolis.  It  was  forbid- 
den to  exercise  the  trades  of  dyer,  fuller,  weaver,  shoemaker 
or  hatter,  and  the  natives  were  compelled  to  buy  of  the  Span- 
iards even  the  stuffs  they  wore  on  their  backs.  Another  or- 
dinance prohibited  the  cultivation  of  the  vine  and  the  olive 
except  in  Peru  and  Chili,  and  even  these  provinces  might  not 
send  their  oil  and  wine  to  Panama,  Guatemala  or  any  other 





THE   DECLINE    OF    TEE    SPANISH   EMPIRE         361 

place  which  could  be  supplied  from  Spain.  To  maintain  the 
commercial  monopoly,  legitimate  ports  of  entry  in  Spanish 
America  were  made  few  and  far  apart — for  Mexico,  Vera 
Cruz;  for  Granada,  the  town  of  Cartagena.  The  islands 
and  most  of  the  other  provinces  were  supplied  by  uncertain 
"vaisseaux  c?  registre,"  while  Peru  and  Chili,  finding  all 
direct  commerce  by  the  Pacific  or  South  Sea  interdicted,  were 
obliged  to  resort  to  the  fever-ridden  town  of  Porto  Bello, 
where  the  mortality  was  enormous  and  the  prices  increased 

"  In  Spain,  likewise,  the  colonial  commerce  was  restricted 
to  one  port,  Seville.  For  in  the  estimation  of  the  crown 
it  was  much  more  important  to  avoid  being  defrauded  of  its 
dues  on  import  and  export,  than  to  permit  the  natural 
development  of  trade  by  those  towns  best  fitted  to  acquire 
it.  ..." 

Just  as  Las  Casas  was  always  favorably  received  at  court, 
but  almost  always  found  that  the  most  beneficent  laws 
could  not  or  would  not  be  enforced  by  the  colonial  officers, 
so  it  turned  out  in  regard  to  all  the  fair  plans  which  the 
Spanish  kings  made  for  the  administration.  Undoubtedly 
the  home  government  took  its  duty  toward  the  New  World 
with  more  seriousness  than  did  the  other  nations.  But  the 
agents  sent  out  to  enforce  the  royal  will  were  almost  to  a  man 
unprincipled  malefactors. 

De  la  Rios,  the  governor  of  Panama,  who  succeeded 
Pedrarias  while  on  the  whole  a  mild  mannered  man  and  not 
notable  for  his  cruelty  had,  according  to  Bancroft,  a  thirst  for 
riches  which  surpassed  the  greed  of  his  miserly  predecessor. 
So  corrupt  was  his  administration  that  he  was  sent  back  to 
Spain  in  1529  and  convicted  of  malfeasance  in  office.  An- 
tonio de  la  Gama  was  governor  until  1534  when  he  was  dis- 
placed in  disgrace  and  Francisco  de  Barrionuevo  put  in 
his  place. 

362  PANAMA 

Under  the  administration  of  this  military  despot,  it  became 
the  turn  for  the  white  men  to  suffer.  His  predecessors  had 
thoroughly  despoiled  the  natives  and  his  only  hope  of  ' '  get- 
ting his"  was  to  force  loans  from  the  merchants.  A  con- 
temporary writer  says:  "Only  that  an  ocean  lay  between 
Charles  and  his  down-trodden  subjects,  nineteen  out  of 
twenty  would  have  thrown  themselves  at  his  feet  to  pray 
for  justice." 

Bancroft  writes,  that  "of  Pedro  Vazquez,  who  succeeded 
Barrionuevo  as  governor  of  Castilla  del  Oro,  little  is  known, 
but  of  Doctor  Robles,  the  successor  of  Vazquez,  under  whose 
administration  the  government  was  continued  till  1546,  it 
is  alleged,  and  probably  with  truth,  that  he  wrought  more 
harm  to  his  fellowmen  in  a  twelvemonth  than  the  malign 
genius  of  a  Pedrarias  even  could  accomplish  in  a  decade." 

Robles  was  thrown  out  by  the  rebellion  of  Gonzalo  Pizarro 
and  when  the  royal  authority  was  restored  the  new  series  of 
officials  finding  that  both  the  natives  and  the  colonists  had 
been  milked  dry  by  former  administrations  had  to  turn  their 
attention  to  the  royal  treasury.  In  1579  a  Corregidor  of 
Panama  confessed  on  his  death  bed  to  having  embezzled 
over  six  thousand  pesos  de  oro.  In  1594  half  a  dozen  city 
officials  formed  a  "ring"  and  between  them  cleaned  up  a 
sum  about  equal  to  $1,500,000  in  our  money. 

And  beside  the  ravages  of  the  official  wolves  the  Isthmus 
suffered  a  great  deal  from  civil  war.  Between  the  discovery 
of  Peru  and  Morgan's  raid,  the  city  of  Panama  was  sacked 
and  partially  destroyed  by  Spaniards  four  several  times. 

At  the  time  of  Gonzalo  Pizarro's  rebellion,  some  of  his 
ships  under  Hernando  Bachicao  captured  the  town,  burned 
down  a  large  part  of  it,  hung  every  one  who  would  not  shout 
"Viva  Pizarro."  The  rebels  indulged  in  an  orgy  of  lust 
and  bloodshed  until  Hinojosa,  Pizarro's  admiral,  appeared 
and  restored  order.  During  the  next  six  months  Nombre  de 

THE   DECLINE    OF    THE   SPANISH   EMPIRE         363 

Dios,  the  other  city  of  the  Isthmus,  was  captured  three  times. 
Twice  by  the  rebels  and  once  by  a  loyalist  force  from  Car- 

In  March,  1550,  de  la  Gasca  reached  Panama  after  his 
successful  suppression  of  the  Peruvian  rebellion.  It  re- 
quired 1,200  mules  to  carry  his  store  of  royal  treasure  across 
the  Isthmus.  The  last  pack  train  had  only  left  the  city  a 
few  hours  when  a  large  fleet  entered  the  harbor  from  the  north. 
It  was  under  the  command  of  some  brothers  named  Contrera, 
one  of  whom  had  been  governor  of  Nicaragua.  They  had 
run  amuck  and  gathering  a  couple  of  hundred  desperadoes 
had  set  out  to  capture  de  la  Gasca's  treasure  and  then  go  on 
to  Peru  where  they  planned  to  establish  a  separate  kingdom. 
They  are  said  to  have  damaged  Panama  to  the  extent  of 
$5,000,000.  But  when  they  tried  to  follow  de  la  Gasca  across 
the  Isthmus  they  became  entangled  in  the  jungle,  their  forces 
were  scattered  and  cut  up  in  piecemeal. 

Added  to  these  civil  disturbances,  a  new  danger  came  from 
the  Cimarrones. 

These  escaped  negro  slaves  became  so  formidable  that  in 
1554,  a  determined  effort  was  begun  to  exterminate  them. 

Pedro  de  Ursua  with  two  hundred  soldiers  was  sent  against 
"King"  Bayano,  the  most  formidable  Cimarrone  chieftain 
near  Panama.  There  were  six  hundred  negroes  in  this 
band  and  it  took  de  Ursua  two  years  of  uninterrupted  cam- 
paigning before  he  finally  captured  Bayano,  and  was  able 
to  send  him  to  Spain  as  a  prisoner. 

However,  this  was  only  a  beginning.  The  number  of  the 
Cimarrones  constantly  increased.  They  fought  with  des- 
perate bravery,  always  preferring  death  to  recapture.  The 
campaign  against  them  waxed  and  waned.  News  would  come 
to  Panama  that  the  inhabitants  of  an  outlying  hacienda 
had  been  massacred  and  the  governor  would  send  out  some 
soldiers  to  discipline  the  bandits.  But  the  negroes  were 

364  PANAMA 

at  home  in  the  jungle.  The  Spaniards  would  slash  about 
in  the  heavy  underbrush  a  week  or  so  and  come  back  to  town 
with  little  accomplished.  And  every  success  of  the  Cimar- 
rones  encouraged  more  slaves  to  escape. 

In  1574  the  Spaniards  were  forced  to  the  humiliation  of 
making  a  treaty  of  peace  with  their  former  servants.  They 
recognized  the  freedom  of  the  Cimarrones  and  in  return 
received  a  pledge  that  in  the  future  runaway  slaves  would 
be  returned.  But  to  the  credit  of  the  negroes  this  pledge 
was  not  kept  and  hostilities  broke  out  afresh.  Four  years  later 
Pedro  de  Ortega  Valencia  was  given  special  orders  to  exter- 
minate them.  But  he  fared  little  better  than  those  who 
'  had  tried  it  before. 

To  a  certain  degree  the  Cimarrones  threatened  the  lives 
of  the  Spaniards,  but  to  a  much  greater  extent  they 
threatened,  by  constantly  depleting  the  labor-market,  to 
paralyze  what  little  industry  there  was. 

An  official  document  of  the  day  shows  that  in  1570  there 
were  two  thousand  negro  slaves — a  third  of  whom  were 
women — employed  in  fifteen  gold  mines  in  the  western 
part  of  the  Isthmus;  ten  years  later  all  were  closed  but 

The  labor  problem  was  very  serious.  By  the  end  of  the 
sixteenth  century  almost  all  of  the  native  Indians  had  dis- 
appeared from  the  Isthmus  except  in  the  eastern  part,  now 
called  "The  Darien."  The  fashion  of  slave-stealing  and 
murder  set  by  Pedrarias  and  Espinosa  had  never  been 
checked.  A  royal  Cedula  of  1593  calls  attention  to  the  fact 
"that  no  one  had  been  brought  to  justice  for  any  of  the 
extortions  or  cruelties  to  which  the  Indians  had  been  sub- 
jected." Two  centuries  after  Columbus's  voyage  to  the 
Isthmus,  full-blooded  Indians  in  Panama  were  about  as 
rare  as  they  are  in  New  York  to-day.  The  white  men  would 
not  work,  and  it  was  negro  labor  or  none  at  all.  And  the 

TEE   DECLINE    OF    THE    SPANISH   EMPIRE         365 

slaves  escaped  to  the  jungle  more  rapidly  than  they  could 
be  brought  to  the  Isthmus. 

The  maladministration  on  the  part  of  the  colonial  officials 
and  the  constant  wars  and  alarums  would  have  made  any 
healthy  development  of  industry  almost  impossible.  The 
economic  policy  of  the  mother  country  which  Haring  refers 
to  as  "almost  epileptic,"  was  an  even  more  deadly  blight 
on  the  colony. 

It  was  frankly  monopolistic.  Instead  of  taxing  colonial 
products  enough  to  give  the  home  manufacturer  an  unfair  ad- 
vantage, as  we  do,  the  Spanish  government  either  forbade  the 
industry  or  the  importation  of  the  product.  Their  method 
had  the  advantage  over  our  " protective  tariff"  of  being 
simpler  and  more  easily  understood.  Everyone  knew,  al- 
though there  were  political  economists  even  in  those  days, 
that  certain  merchants  of  Spain  had  control  of  the  Council 
of  the  Indies  and  so  of  the  throne. 

A  few  enterprising  colonists  began  grape  culture  in  Peru. 
They  had  grown  up  in  a  wine  country  and  soon  began 
turning  out  a  fairly  good  grade.  Some  of  it  was  imported 
to  Spain,  but  that  was  at  once  forbidden.  The  colonial 
wine,  however,  soon  became  popular  in  Panama  and  offered 
a  strong  competition  with  home  vintages.  Thus  threatened 
in  their  profits,  the  Spanish  wine  growers  sent  a  lobby  to 
Madrid  and  soon  Philip  II  signed  a  Cedula,  dated  September 
16,  1586,  which  forbade  the  sale  of  any  wine  on  the  Isthmus 
except  such  as  was  imported  from  Spain.  Its  two  logical 
markets  closed,  the  Peruvian  wine  growing  died  out — it  is 
just  beginning  to  be  revived. 

This  incident  was  typical.  No  industry  was  permitted 
which  could  supply  the  colonists  with  any  article  manufact- 
ured in  Spain. 

But  the  merchant  princes  of  Seville  were  not  only  jealous 
of  colonial  industry;  they  were  equally  hostile — and  they 

366  PANAMA 

controlled  the  government — to  competition  in  commerce. 
In  a  preceding  chapter  (XVII)  I  quoted  a  letter  from  a 
merchant  in  Panama  which  indicates  that  there  was  con- 
siderable trade  between  that  port  and  the  Orient.  The 
"business  interests"  of  Spain  wanted  this  fat  plum  for 
themselves  and  this  traffic  was  forbidden.  A  Cedula  of 
1593 — three  years  later  than  the  letter  quoted — says : 

"Toleration  and  abuse  have  caused  an  undue  increase  in 
the  trade  between  the  West  Indies  and  China,  and  a  con- 
sequent decrease  in  that  of  the  Castilian  kingdom.  To 
remedy  this  it  is  again  ordered  that  neither  from  Tierra 
Firma,  Peru,  nor  elsewhere,  except  New  Spain  (Mexico)  shall 
any  vessel  go  to  China  or  the  Philippine  Islands  to  trade." 

If  this  through  trade  with  the  Orient  had  not  been  so 
arbitrarily  cut  off,  the  Isthmus  would  never  have  been  for- 
gotten by  the  world  and  the  canal  might  have  been  built 
years  ago. 

Even  the  pearl  trade — Panama's  one  indigenous  industry 
— came  to  grief.  At  one  time  as  many  as  thirty  ships  were 
engaged  in  fishing.  In  1587  six  hundred  pounds  of  high 
grade  pearls  were  received  in  Seville.  But  no  withstraint  was 
put  on  the  fishing  and  the  oyster  banks  gave  out. 

In  1589  more  than  ninety  ships  came  to  the  Atlantic  ports 
of  the  Isthmus.  In  1601  the  number  had  dropped  to  thirty- 
two,  in  1605  to  seventeen. 

Even  the  trade  down  the  Pacific  coast  between  Panama 
and  Peru  was  often  interrupted  for  long  periods.  Hakluyt 
gives  an  account  which  says  that  Panama  city  was  short 
of  provisions,  ".  .  .  .  for  there  is  none  to  be  had  for  any 
money,  by  reasons  that  from  Lima  there  is  no  shipping  come 
with  maiz  .  .  .  But  I  can  certifie  .  .  .  that  all 
things  are  very  deeire  here,  and  that  we  stand  in  great  ex- 
tremetie  for  want  of  victuals." 

This  insane  economic  policy  could  result  only  in  killing 

THE   DECLINE    OF    THE    SPANISH   EMPIEE         367 

the  colonies — it  could  not  enforce  a  real  monopoly.  Such 
"restraints  of  trade"  inevitably  produce  smuggling.  Just  as 
moonshine  whiskey  is  distilled  in  the  United  States,  and 
matches  are  smuggled  into  France,  so  in  the  Spanish  colonies 
illicit  trade  and  contraband  manufacture  sprang  up  every- 
where. In  the  face  of  the  exceedingly  high  prices  charged 
by  the  monopolists  of  Seville,  the  English,  French  and  Dutch 
traders  could  run  all  the  immense  risks  of  smuggling  and 
still  make  big  profits. 

In  "A  History  of  the  Voyages  and  Travels  of  Captain 
Nathaniel  Uring,"  I  find  this  frank  avowal: 

"In  the  Beginning  of  the  Year  1711,  I  went  over  in  a 
Sloop,  well  mann'd  and  arm'd,  to  trade  on  the  Coast  of 
New  Spain,  and  we  carried  with  us  a  great  Quantity  of 
dry  Goods,  and  about  150  Negroes.  We  first  touched  at 
Portobello,  but  being  War-Time,  we  used  to  go  to  the  Grout 
within  Monkey  Key  .  .  .  about  four  or  five  Miles  from 
the  Harbour  and  Town  of  Portobello  .  .  .  We  lay  at 
this  Place  Trading  for  six  Weeks  in  which  Time  the  Spanish 
Merchants  at  Panama  had  notice  of  our  being  there  and 
they  came  across  the  Isthmus  to  trade  with  us.  These 
Merchants  frequently  travelled  in  the  Habits  of  Peasants, 
and  had  their  Mules  with  them,  on  which  they  brought 
their  Money  in  Jars,  which  they  filled  up  with  Meal;  and  if 
any  of  the  King's  Officers  met  them  nothing  appeared  but 
the  Meal,  and  pretended  they  were  poor  People  going  to  Por- 
tobello to  buy  some  trifles;  but  they  for  the  most  Part  went 
through  the  Woods  ...  in  order  to  prevent  their  being 
discovered  by  the  Royal  Officers." 

Almost  all  the  old  chronicles  give  the  same  story  of  illicit 
trade.  Francois  Coreal,  whose  memoirs  are  as  informal  and 
amusing  as  Captain  Uring's  are  dry  and  ponderous,  in  speak- 
ing of  the  monopoly  which  the  Spanish  crown  tried  to  main- 
tain in  Peruvian  Gold,  writes,  "mais  les  Marchands  Espagnols 

368  PANAMA 

en  font  passer  beaucoup  dans  des  balles  de  Marchandise  pour 
frauder  les  Droits." 

Now  smuggling,  like  any  violation  of  the  laws,  offers  rich 
chance  for  graft  to  the  officials.  When  Captain  Uring's 
sloop  with  its  " great  Quantity  of  dry  Goods"  lay  at  anchor 
in  Monkey  Key  it  is  hard  to  believe  that  the  Governor  of 
Puerto  Bello  did  no  know  it.  If  he  sent  a  warship  to  capture 
it  the  virtue  of  having  done  his  duty  would  be  his  only 
reward.  The  confiscated  cargo  would  have  gone  to  the 
Royal  Treasury.  Undoubtedly  the  ' '  Merchants  at  Panama ' ' 
had  reasoned  with  him.  Perhaps  he  himself  needed  a  negro 
slave,  or  more  likely  his  good  wife  wanted  some  of  those 
"dry  Goods."  To  drive  away  the  smugglers  meant  humble 
submission  to  the  monopolist  clique  in  Seville  and  no  reward. 
To  ignore  their  presence  meant  prosperity  for  the  local  mer- 
chants— some  of  which  was  sure  to  find  its  way  into  the 
governor's  pocket.  So  the  trade  throve. 

Of  course  the  merchants  in  Spain  were  forever  protesting 
against  this  contraband  traffic.  One  Cedula  was  issued 
after  another  to  stiffen  up  the  enforcement  of  the  laws.  It 
was  so  easy  for  a  Lutheran  trader  to  hide  in  some  of  the 
coves  around  Puerto  Bello  and  land  his  cargo  that  it  was 
manifestly  impossible  to  maintain  the  customs  regulations 
in  that  city.  But  there  was  only  one  road  over  which  mer- 
chandise could  be  taken  across  the  Isthmus.  So  a  sort  of 
toll-gate  was  set  up  at  Venta  de  Cruces.  All  traffic  between 
the  two  oceans  passed  this  place.  It  was  a  pretty  good 
scheme  but  it  did  not  work.  Bancroft,  who  with  his  assistant 
writers,  did  an  immense  amount  of  research  in  regard  to  the 
fiscal  regulations  and  commercial  decline  of  the  Spanish 
colonies,  gives  a  report  for  the  year  1624,  which  shows  that 
goods  to  the  amount  of  1,446,346  pesos  de  oro  were  registered 
as  passing  through  the  Casa  at  Cruces,  while  more  than  seven 
and  a  half  millions  worth  were  smuggled  across. 

THE   DECLINE   OF    THE   SPANISH   EMPIEE         369 

Early  in  the  seventeenth  century  the  fraudulent  traffic  was 
more  than  six  times  as  great  as  the  legitimate  trade.  By  the 
end  of  the  century  there  was  little  trade  of  any  kind. 

Very  little  worth  noting  happened  in  the  eighteenth  century . 
The  Isthmus  had  become  of  so  little  importance  that  in  1718 
it  was  deprived  of  its  autonomy,  and  made  an  administrative 
province  of  the  Vice-Royalty  of  New  Granada. 

The  Fates  did  not  seem  content  to  let  the  muy  noble  y  muy 
leal  Ciudad  de  Panama  rot.  Three  great  fires,  in  1737,  1756, 
1777,  swept  the  city  and  almost  obliterated  it. 

A  few  people  still  recalled  its  glorious  past,  and  dreamed 
of  glorious  days  to  come,  but  Panama  itself  was  so  lifeless 
that  it  could  muster  no  energy  to  take  any  active  part  in 
the  Wars  of  Independence  with  which  the  next  century  began. 



THE  Isthmus  of  Panama  played  a  very  small  part  in  the 
revolt  of  the  colonies  against  Spain. 

It  was  an  all-important  station  in  the  communication 
between  the  mother  country  and  the  turbulent  colonies  of 
the  West  Coast.  The  Spanish  maintained  a  strong  garrison 
in  the  fortresses  of  San  Lorenzo  on  the  Caribbean,  and 
Panama  City  on  the  Pacific.  The  Isthmus  was  one  of  the 
last  provinces  to  throw  off  allegiance. 

Her  fate,  however,  was  bound  up  with  that  of  her  sister 
colonies,  and  especially  with  that  of  the  Vice-Royalty  of  New 
Granada.  An  historical  account  of  Panama  must  include 
a  consideration  of  the  overthrow  of  the  Spanish  Empire  on 
the  mainland  of  America. 

A  very  good  condensed  account  of  the  Wars  of  Libera- 
tion is  to  be  found  in  "The  Independence  of  the  South 
American  Republics,"  by  Frederic  L.  Paxson.  In  describ- 
ing the  general  conditions  which  preceded  the  revolutionary 
period,  he  writes: 

"Exploitation  and  repression  were  the  essential  features 
of  the  Spanish  colonial  system.  If  Buenos  Ayres  proved  to 
be  a  competitor  to  the  Spanish  merchants,  her  olive  trees 
must  come  down  and  vines  must  come  up  by  the  roots,  for 
it  was  clearly  understood  that  Spain  was  to  be  protected, 
and  that  the  colonies  existed  only  for  the  benefit  of  the 
mother  country.  It  is  hard  to  see  how  such  a  system  could 
have  been  carried  out  honestly,  or,  if  this  were  possible, 
how  it  could  have  been  endured.  But  the  administration 


THE    WAES    OF   INDEPENDENCE— MI  BAND  A        371 

of  Spain  made  the  colonial  system  a  means  for  recuperating 
distressed  fortunes,  while  the  colonists  utilized  the  cupidity 
of  their  rulers  to  develop  an  extensive,  illicit  and  profitable 
foreign  trade.  .  .  . 

"South  America,  strange  as  it  may  seem,  in  spite  of  cen- 
turies of  misgovernment  and  blindness  on  the  part  of  the 
mother  country,  was  patriotic  during  those  early  years  of  the 
last  century,  when  patriotism  was  almost  the  only  asset  of 
the  Spanish  peoples.  The  colonial  system  had  been  atro- 
cious, but,  keeping  those  at  the  bottom  of  the  social  scale  in 
dense  ignorance,  and  allowing  those  on  top  to  enrich  them- 
selves by  illicit  means,  it  had  been  successful." 

The  impetus  which  set  the  wave  of  revolt  in  motion  was 
Napoleon's  effort  to  establish  his  brother  on  the  throne  at 

On  March  19,  1808,  Charles  the  Fourth  abdicated  in 
favor  of  his  son,  Ferdinand  VII.  The  old  king,  however, 
quickly  changed  his  mind,  regretted  having  made  way  for 
his  son,  and  called  on  Napoleon  to  assist  him  in  regaining 
his  throne.  This  was  just  the  sort  of  a  pretext  that  Bona- 
parte needed  to  get  his  finger  into  the  Spanish  pie.  He 
crossed  the  Pyrenees,  deposed  Ferdinand  in  the  name  of 
Charles,  then  threw  Charles  overboard  and  put  his  own 
brother,  Joseph,  on  the  throne. 

If  ever  a  great  man  was  bothered  by  a  good-for-nothing 
family,  it  was  the  French  emperor.  By  1813,  Joseph  had 
thoroughly  demonstrated  his  inability  to  be  a  real  king,  and 
Napoleon  quarrelled  with  him.  In  December,  he  wrote  to 

"You  are  no  longer  King  of  Spain.  What  will  you  do 
now?  Will  you  come  to  the  defence  of  my  throne?  .  .  . 
Have  you  sense  enough  to  do  this?  If  not,  retire  to  the 
obscurity  of  some  country  house  near  Paris.  You  will  be 
useless,  but  you  will  do  me  no  harm." 

372  PANAMA 

Napoleon  then  put  Ferdinand  back  on  the  throne. 

At  the  news  of  the  French  aggression,  a  wave  of  patriotism 
swept  over  Spanish-America.  Almost  without  exception,  the 
colonies  refused  to  recognize  the  new  sovereignty.  Provis- 
ional governments,  to  represent  the  deposed  king,  were 
proclaimed  in  almost  every  South  American  city.  They 
formed  themselves  on  the  model  of,  and  at  first  allied  them- 
selves with,  the  legitimist  Junta  of  Seville. 

The  first  American  Junta  was  established  at  Quito,  in 
August,  1809.  It  was  short  lived.  Six  months  later,  Cara- 
cas in  Venezuela  followed  suit.  Deposing  Emparen,  the 
governor,  who  sympathized  with  the  French,  they  proclaimed 
a  federal  government  in  the  name  of  Ferdinand.  Bogota, 
the  capital  of  New  Granada,  formed  a  Junta  in  July,  1810. 
In  December,  they  went  a  step  further,  and  proclaimed  a 
republic,  to  administer  the  vice-royalty  on  behalf  of  the  true 
Spanish  king.  A  similar  movement,  led  by  Buenos  Ayres, 
was  growing  in  the  South. 

Not  until  1811  did  the  movement  for  separation  take 
form.  On  July  5th  of  that  year,  the  Congress  of  Venezuela 
passed  a  resolution  of  independence.  Paxton  says:  "The 
wide-spread  popular  feeling  which  showed  itself  in  this 
movement  .  .  .  was  founded  on  loyalty  to  Spain. 
Many  of  the  leaders  of  the  day  were  individually  in  favor  of 
complete  independence,  but  there  was  as  yet  no  public 
opinion  to  support  them." 

The  two  men  who  were  most  rigorously  preaching  seces- 
sion in  the  northern  provinces  were  Francesco  de  Miranda 
and  Simon  Bolivar.  They  were  both  sons  of  wealthy  Vene- 
zuelans, and  were  both  born  in  Caracas,  the  former  in  1754, 
the  latter  in  1783. 

I  can  find  no  record  that  Miranda  ever  visited  the  Isth- 
mus. But  the  scene  which  was  enacted  in  Panama,  when  the 
Spanish  governor,  hearing  of  the  defeat  of  the  last  royalist 


army,  voluntarily  and  without  bloodshed,  resigned  his  au- 
thority to  the  patriots,  was  only  the  last  act  of  the  long  drama 
which  began  when  Miranda  was  learning  at  the  Siege  of 
Yorktown  to  dream  of  American  independence. 

In  later  life,  Bolivar  said:  "The  seed  of  liberty  yields  its 
just  fruit.  If  there  is  anything  which  is  never  lost,  it  is  the 
blood  which  is  shed  for  a  deserving  cause." 

It  is  interesting  to  apply  this  saying  to  Miranda,  whom 
Bolivar  believed  to  be  a  traitor  and  sent  to  his  death.  The 
historians  of  to-day  who  can  study  those  events  without 
passion  are  agreed  that  Bolivar  misjudged  Miranda,  and  that 
his  death  in  a  Spanish  dungeon  is  the  blackest  stain  on  the 
record  of  the  great  Liberator. 

In  1779,  Miranda,  a  youth  of  23,  came  north  and  enlisted 
in  the  Continental  Army.  He  served  his  military  appren- 
ticeship under  Lafayette,  and  was  present  with  him  at 
Yorktown.  He  followed  his  general  to  Europe  and  enlisted 
again  in  the  cause  of  freedom  in  France.  He  distinguished 
himself  at  Valmy  and  Jemappes,  and  rose  to  the  rank  of 
major-general.  His  name  is  engraved  on  the  Arc  de  Tri- 
umphe.  But  in  1797,  he  fell  under  the  displeasure  of  the 
directoire,  as  did  all  who  remained  true  to  the  early  ideals 
of  the  Revolution,  and  had  to  flee  to  England.  For  nine 
years  he  wandered  about  Europe,  trying  to  enlist  sympathy 
for  the  Spanish  colonies  among  the  enemies  of  the  Most 
Catholic  King.  His  eloquence  is  said  to  have  brought  tears 
to  the  eyes  of  Catherine  of  Russia.  She  promised  to  help,  but 
forgot  her  promise.  In  London  he  won  the  interest  of  Pitt 
and  another  promise  of  help.  But  the  rising  power  of 
Napoleon  distracted  the  attention  of  the  English  premier. 
At  last  he  came  to  the  United  States  and  sought  the  friend- 
ship of  Jefferson.  In  a  letter  to  him,  dated  January  22nd, 
1806,  Miranda  shows  the  visionary  and  poetic  side  of  his 
character.  In  this  petition  for  military  assistance,  he  quotes 

374  PANAMA 

from  the  Fourth  Eclogue  of  Virgil.  An  English  officer, 
James  Briggs,  who  later  served  under  him,  sums  up  his  char- 
acter in  these  words:  "  After  all,  this  man  of  renown,  I  fear, 
must  be  considered  as  having  more  learning  than  wisdom, 
more  theoretical  knowledge  than  practical  talent.  He  is 
too  sanguine  and  opinionated  to  distinguish  between  vigor 
of  enterprise  and  the  hardness  of  intoleration."  Later 
writers  have  not  improved  on  this  contemporaneous  char- 

Miranda  organized  a  filibustering  expedition  in  New  York, 
and  sailed  from  that  port  on  the  Leander,  in  February,  1806. 
The  raid  failed  dismally.  "One  thing  essential  to  a  revolu- 
tion," Paxton  writes,  "was  lacking — the  people  of  Vene- 
zuela would  not  revolt." 

There  was,  however,  another  reason  for  Miranda's  failure, 
which  Paxton  seems  to  have  ignored.  The  filibustered  did 
not  share  his  ideals.  He  personally  furnished  the  enthu- 
siasm and  money  for  the  venture.  Very  few  of  his  men 
shared  his  dream — even  fewer  were  Venezuelans  who  were 
moved  by  patriotism.  Most  of  his  little  army  were  mer- 
cenaries. Many  had  been  tricked  or  impressed  into  the 
expedition.  A  curious  little  volume  published  in  Albany, 
New  York,  in  1814,  and  written  by  one  of  these  unfortunate 
men,  throws  much  light  on  this  aspect  of  the  enterprise. 
It  is  entitled,  "History  of  the  Adventures  and  Sufferings  of 
Moses  Smith  during  Five  Years  of  his  Life,  from  the  Begin- 
ning of  the  Year  1806,  when  he  was  Betrayed  into  the 
Miranda  Expedition." 

It  was  not  until  they  were  many  days  out  from  New  York 
that  some  of  the  men  found  out  the  goal  of  the  journey. 
"Many  of  these  men,"  Smith  wrote,  "had  been  forced  into 
this  expedition  against  their  will.  They  had  not  yet  shed 
blood  nor  taken  any  active  part  in  warfare.  The  laws  of 
their  native  country  were  not  intentionally  violated  by 



them,  and  they  had  not  incurred  the  vengeance  of  any 
other.  They  determined  to  escape."  They  were  much 
more  interested  in  escaping  than  conquering.  At  last  sixty 
of  them  fell  into  the  hands  of  the  Spaniards.  The  officers, 
ten  in  number,  were  executed,  the  rest  rotted  for  several  years 
in  the  fetid  prisons  of  Puerto  Cabello. 

Miranda  escaped  from  this  fiasco,  and  retired  to  London, 
where  he  foregathered  with  the  large  company  of  political 
refugees  who  had  found  asylum  there. 

As  we  have  seen,  Napoleon's  attempt  to  turn  Spain  into 
a  family  estate  had  met  with  resistance  in  the  colonies.  In 
1810,  the  loyalist  Junta  in  Caracas  found  itself  threatened 
by  the  French  and  dispatched  commissioners  to  London  to 
enlist  the  aid  of  Great  Britain  and  to  secure  arms  and 
ammunition  for  their  militia.  They  chose  young  Simon 
Bolivar  for  this  mission.  The  Junta  especially  warned  him 
not  to  become  entangled  with  Miranda,  whose  extreme 
republicanism  was  known  to  and  distrusted  by  the  loyalist 
Junta.  But  Bolivar  had  a  very  decided  tendency  towards 
disobeying  orders.  He  soon  fell  under  the  spell  of  Miranda's 
eloquence,  and,  to  the  chagrin  of  his  employers,  brought  the 
old  republican  leader  back  with  him  to  Venezuela. 

The  populace  of  Caracas  gave  them  both  an  ardent  ova- 
tion when  they  entered  the  city.  Elections  were  about  to 
take  place  for  delegates  to  the  provincial  Congress.  Miranda 
was  elected  from  the  district  of  Barcelona.  Three  political 
parties  formed  themselves  in  those  days:  the  Loyalists,  the 
Bonapartists  and  the  Republicans.  Miranda  led  the  third 
of  these  parties  on  the  floor  of  Congress,  and  Bolivar  was  the 
most  active  spirit  in  the  Society  of  Patriots.  The  political 
association,  in  its  ideas  and  influence,  was  not  unlike  the 
Jacobin  Club  of  the  French  Revolution. 

On  April  18,  1810,  some  commissioners  arrived  on  behalf 
of  one  of  the  political  factions  in  Spain.  Bolivar  inaugu- 

376  PANAMA 

rated  the  separation  movement  by  a  speech  before  the 
Society  of  Patriots,  in  which  he  argued  that  the  inability  of 
the  Spanish  dynasty  to  maintain  a  stable  government  at 
home  was  warrant  and  invitation  for  the  Venezuelans  to 
govern  themselves. 

But  the  loyalist  faction  was  still  the  strongest,  and  they 
forced  through  a  constitution  which  declared  allegiance  to 
Ferdinand  VII. 

Nearly  fifteen  months  passed  before  Miranda  and  Boli- 
var could  swing  public  opinion  to  their  view  point.  On 
July  5th,  1811,  the  Congress  adopted  a  resolution,  which 
Bolivar  had  presented  the  day  before  to  the  Society  of 
Patriots,  which  declared  the  complete  independence  of 
Venezuela.  They  adopted  a  new  constitution,  forming  a 
federated  union  of  the  prefectures  of  the  colony,  accepted  the 
tri-color  flag  of  Miranda,  and  made  him  commander-in-chief 
of  the  army. 

Miranda,  although  he  had  proved  himself  a  very  capable 
subordinate  officer,  lacked  the  essential  qualifications  of  a 
general  commandant. 

He  had  lived  so  long  away  from  Venezuela  that  he  scarcely 
knew  the  men  under  him.  He  lacked  quick  decision,  and  in 
the  crisis  which  came  ultimately,  completely  lost  his  head. 

About  this  time  a  soldier  of  fortune  named  Monteverde 
landed  in  Venezuela.  He  held  Ferdinand's  commission  as 
field-marshal.  And  finding  no  loyalist  army  to  command, 
he  set  to  work  to  organize  one.  He  made  little  progress  at 
first.  The  early  months  of  the  young  republic  were  peaceful 
and  to  a  surprising  degree  prosperous.  A  new  and  profitable 
trade  had  began  to  flow  into  its  ports.  It  was  rapidly 
acquiring  stability. 

However,  the  clergy — the  world  over  they  have  been  hos- 
tile to  democracy — were  busily  but  silently  at  work  in  the 
loyalist  cause.  They  had  sedulously  preached  that  the 


wrath  of  God  would  surely  fall  on  those  who  despised  the 
divine  right  of  kings.  On  Holy  Thursday,  March  26th, 
1812,  less  than  a  year  after  the  declaration  of  independence, 
their  prophecy  seemed  to  be  fulfilled  in  a  terrible  earth- 
quake, the  worst  Venezuela  had  ever  known.  The  disaster 
was  most  complete  in  those  districts  most  strongly  repub- 
lican. The  patriots  seemed  to  be  especially  marked  out  for 
destruction.  Six  hundred  of  their  soldiers  were  buried  in 
the  ruins  of  the  barracks  at  Caracas,  as  many  more  were 
lost  in  the  town  of  San  Felipe,  and  as  many  as  twelve  hun- 
dred were  killed  at  Barquisimento. 

The  priests  came  out  in  the  open  and  began  preaching  a 
Holy  War  against  the  patriots.  Monteverde  was  just  the 
man  to  make  the  most  of  such  an  opportunity.  He  took  the 
field  at  once  and  drove  the  disorganized  republicans  out  of 
the  town  of  San  Carlos,  where  he  established  headquarters 
and  unfurled  the  Spanish  flag.  A  second  earthquake  took 
place  on  April  4th.  It  was  not  so  disastrous  as  the  first, 
but  it  was  enough  to  definitely  turn  the  superstitious  against 
the  republic. 

Bolivar  and  other  patriot  leaders,  who  lived  through  the 
days  which  followed,  always  maintained  that  by  energetic 
action  Miranda  might  still  have  saved  the  republic.  But 
he  developed  a  perfect  genius  for  doing  the  wrong  thing. 
Instead  of  concentrating  what  was  left  of  his  forces,  he  dis- 
persed them.  Monteverde's  army  existed  only  in  name. 
He  could  hardly  have  repulsed  a  quick  attack.  Miranda 
ordered  Bolivar,  with  a  small  force,  to  go  to  Puerto  Cabello, 
to  hold  its  fortress.  Other  detachments  were  sent  in  other 
directions.  Not  till  May  1st  did  he  march  out  of  Caracas 
with  his  1,200  men  and  take  the  field  against  the  army 
which  Monteverde  was  rapidly  recruiting  and  rapidly  whip- 
ping into  shape. 

After  a  few  days'  advance,  Miranda  suddenly  changed  his 

378  PANAMA 

mind  and  began  a  discouraging  retreat.  Monteverde  caught 
up  with  him  at  La  Victoria  and  was  defeated.  But  Miranda 
failed  to  follow  up  this  victory.  He  continued  his  retreat- 
ing, losing  men  by  desertion  at  every  step.  Bolivar,  hear- 
ing that  Monteverde  was  threatening  Puerto  Cabello,  sent 
dispatches  to  Miranda,  asking  for  reinforcements.  Miranda 
felt  that  he  could  not  spare  any. 

On  June  30th,  the  officer  of  the  day  in  the  fortress  of 
Puerto  Cabello  accepted  a  bribe  from  the  loyalist  prisoners. 
He  liberated  them  in  the  night  and  they  surprised  and 
massacred  the  sleeping  garrison.  Bolivar  with  forty  men 
escaped  into  the  city.  For  five  days,  with  his  forty  men,  he 
tried  to  hold  the  city  against  the  fortress.  But  on  July  5th, 
loyalist  reinforcements  from  Monteverde  arrived,  and  Bolivar 
and  his  men  escaped  by  boat  to  La  Guayra. 

On  the  29th  of  July,  Miranda,  believing  that  Bolivar  had 
betrayed  him,  and  utterly  discouraged  by  the  ease  with 
which  the  priests  had  turned  the  people  away  from  the 
republic,  surrendered  to  Monteverde  without  a  fight.  By 
his  treaty  he  agreed  that  Venezuela  would  accept  the  author- 
ity of  the  Spanish  Cortes,  and  made  terms  with  Monte- 
verde, worthless  as  they  afterwards  proved,  that  no  one 
should  be  prosecuted  because  of  political  opinions. 

The  next  day  Miranda  arrived  at  La  Guayra  to  take  ship 
for  England.  The  group  of  patriots  in  that  city  regarded 
him  with  suspicion.  They  did  not  know  the  terms  of  his 
treaty  with  Monteverde,  and  if  they  had  known,  would  not 
have  trusted  them.  They  clearly  foresaw  the  proscription 
which  awaited  them.  When  they  asked  Miranda  the  rea- 
sons for  his  surrender,  he  maintained  a  haughty  reserve. 
In  the  crisis  the  Congress  had  created  him  dictator,  and  no 
one  had  a  right  to  question  his  actions.  When  they  pressed 
him  for  further  explanations,  he  became  insulting.  Shortly 
after  he  had  retired  for  the  night,  fugitives  arrived  from 


Caracas,  with  the  news  that  Monteverde  had  already  begun 
executing  the  patriotic  leaders.  They  were  amazed  to  find 
that  Miranda  was  in  the  city.  He  had  promised  to  stay  in 
Caracas  and  act  as  a  mediator  with  Monteverde.  He  had 
left  that  city  by  stealth.  After  a  heated  consultation, 
Bolivar  and  two  other  patriots  awoke  the  old  man  and 
arrested  him  and  threw  him  into  prison  as  a  traitor. 

The  next  morning  the  city  was  occupied  by  loyalist 
forces.  Monteverde,  instead  of  releasing  Miranda,  as  he 
was  bound  to  do  under  his  treaty,  sent  him  in  chains  to 
Puerto  Rico,  and  from  there  he  was  sent  to  Spain. 

A  British  officer  has  left  this  note  on  a  visit  to  the  prison: 
"I  have  seen  this  noble  man  tied  to  a  wall,  with  a  chain 
about  his  neck,  neither  more  nor  less  than  a  dog."  This 
old  man,  who  had  fought  for  liberty  on  three  continents, 
never  again  was  free.  He  died  July  14th,  1816,  in  the  fort- 
ress of  La  Caraca,  Cadiz. 

There  is  no  shadow  of  evidence  that  Miranda  was  in  any 
sense  of  the  word  a  traitor;  but,  beyond  question,  in  the 
supreme  crisis  of  his  life  he  proved  a  miserable  failure. 
There  is  small  wonder  that  the  group  of  patriots  mistrusted 
him.  He  had  sent  his  best  officer,  Bolivar,  away  from  the 
seat  of  war,  had  sent  him  almost  single-handed  to  defend 
Puerto  Cabello.  After  defeating  Monteverde,  he  had  con- 
tinued his  disastrous  retreat.  He  had  surrendered  with  no 
apparent  justification.  He  refused  to  explain  himself.  Such 
action  might  well  seem  treasonable  under  the  circumstances. 
They  mistook  the  broken-hearted  old  man  for  a  traitor. 
If  they  had  shot  him  after  a  drum-head  court  martial,  it 
would  not  have  been  so  bad.  But  to  allow  him  to  fall  into 
the  clutches  of  the  Spaniards  was  shameful. 

The  First  Republic  of  Venezuela  was  practically  an 
isolated  phenomenon.  It  alone  of  all  the  colonies  had  for- 
mally severed  its  connections  with  the  mother  country. 

380  PANAMA 

However,  while  civil  war  had  been  devastating  Venezuela, 
a  more  subtle  and  also  more  permanent  force  had  been  at 
work  in  the  other  colonies. 

From  the  moment  when  the  first  patriotic  juntas  had 
been  formed,  a  relaxation  had  taken  place  in  the  rigid  old 
colonial  laws  which  forbade  commerce  with  other  nations. 
Foreign-made  goods,  which  before  had  been  introduced 
into  South  America  by  means  of  smuggling,  now  had  free 
access.  Foreign  merchants,  especially  English,  started 
business  in  the  ports.  Buenos  Ayres  on  the  Atlantic;  Val- 
paraiso, Callao,  Guayaquil  on  the  west  coast;  Santa  Marta, 
Cartagena,  Puerto  Cabello  and  La  Guayra  on  the  Carib- 
bean, became  enriched  by  the  flourishing  new  trade.  The 
colonists  had  become  habituated  to  commercial  freedom 
and  to  local  taxation  during  the  time  that  King  Ferdinand 
was  in  exile. 

When  he  was  restored,  he — in  whose  name  they  had 
instituted  many  liberal  reforms — turned  out  to  be  an  ex- 
treme reactionary.  He  treated  his  partisans  in  America 
like  traitors.  He  tried  to  re-establish  all  the  old  restric- 
tions on  colonial  commerce.  The  home  land  had  been 
devastated  by  the  long  war  over  the  Succession;  he  had 
no  place  to  turn  for  taxes,  except  the  colonies.  In  the 
olden  days  the  Americas  had  laid  many  a  golden  egg  for  the 
Spanish  throne.  His  one  idea  was  to  start  the  process 
again.  But  the  people  of  South  America  did  not  submit 
willingly  to  re-enslavement. 

Secession  was  no  longer  the  crack-brained  dream  of  a 
handful  of  Venezuelan  enthusiasts,  it  had  become  "good 
business."  The  foreign  merchants  who  had  established 
themselves  in  the  colonies,  seeing  themselves  threatened 
with  exclusion  and  ruin,  became  a  very  active  force  in  the 
second  phase  of  the  revolutionary  movement.  Paxton 
rather  cynically  remarks:  "Commercial  pressure  was  the 


great  influence  in  keeping  the  patriots  patriotic."  This  is 
perhaps  an  over-statement.  But  the  foreign  merchants 
certainly  were  a  great  influence.  Without  their  ready 
financial  assistance  San  Martin  in  the  south,  and  Bolivar 
in  the  north,  could  not  have  armed  the  patriots. 

The  downfall  of  Miranda  marked  the  end  of  the  idealistic 
movement.  In  a  few  months  a  new  movement  sprang  up 
which  was  largely  materialistic — and  entirely  successful. 



WHEN  the  disastrous  campaign  of  1812  gave  Venezuela 
back  to  Spain,  Bolivar  fled  to  New  Granada,  and  so  more 
directly  enters  the  history  of  the  Isthmus. 

His  early  life  had  been  unhappy.  His  father — a  rich  and 
influential  colonist — had  died  when  he  was  an  infant,  his 
mother  when  he  was  fifteen.  He  went  to  Spain  with  a  tutor, 
at  nineteen  had  married  a  girl  of  sixteen.  He  had  hardly 
brought  her  home  to  Caracas  when  she  died  of  yellow  fever. 
In  1805  he  returned  again  to  Europe.  He  saw  Napoleon 
playing  skittles  with  crowns.  And  it  is  said  that  during  this 
trip  he  made  an  especial  pilgrimage  to  Rome,  and  there  on 
the  Sacred  Hill  made  a  vow  to  devote  his  life  to  the  inde- 
pendence of  his  people.  He  returned  to  Venezuela  by  way  of 
the  United  States,  and  by  1810  had  risen  to  sufficient  prom- 
inence to  be  chosen  by  the  Junta  for  the  mission  to  London. 

While  under  the  influence  of  Miranda,  he  seems  to  have 
accepted  all  the  ideals  of  this  enthusiast.  His  speeches  at 
the  Society  of  Patriots  are  filled  with  the  spirit  of  the  Red 
Republicans  of  Paris.  At  this  period  his  idol  seems  to  have 
been  Thomas  Jefferson.  But  in  later  life  he  developed  in  the 
opposite  direction,  becoming  as  ardent  an  advocate  of 
aristocracy  as  Alexander  Hamilton. 

When  he  reached  New  Granada,  after  the  fall  of  the  First 
Republic  in  Venezuela,  he  found  this  vice-royalty,  of  which 
the  Isthmus  was  a  province,  in  a  wild  ferment.  A  Junta 



was  claiming  to  govern  it  in  the  name  of  Ferdinand.  But  the 
federalist  tendency  had  gone  to  such  extremes  that  each 
province  considered  itself  a  "  sovereign  state,"  and  a  condition 
of  chaos  had  resulted.  A  few  troops — hostile  to  the  Junta — 
occupied  the  lower  valley  of  the  Magdalena.  Bolivar  en- 
listed as  a  private  in  the  patriot  army,  and  soon  rose  to  a 
small  command.  He  began  to  manifest  a  brilliant  genius 
for  guerilla  warfare  and  also  his  marked  habit  of  disregarding 
orders.  His  commander-in-chief  was  a  strategist  of  the  old 
school,  the  kind  of  general  that  Napoleon  had  so  easily 
overthrown  in  Europe.  Bolivar  was  continually  making 
raids  on  his  own  initiative,  which  were  so  successful  that  the 
Junta,  in  spite  of  his  commander's  frequent  demands  that 
he  should  be  court-martialed  for  insubordination,  always 
sustained  him.  In  a  few  months  he  had  cleared  the  district 
of  the  enemy  and  had  collected  a  little  army  of  six  hundred 
men  who  were  devoted  to  him  and  as  dare-devil  a  crew  as 
ever  took  part  in  partizan  warfare. 

Meanwhile  things  had  been  going  badly  for  the  patriots  in 
Venezuela.  General  Monteverde  had  entirely  repudiated 
the  amnesty  he  had  pledged  to  Miranda.  The  execution  of 
suspects  was  a  daily  occurrence.  It  is  doubtful  if  such  a 
long  continued  and  devastating  reign  of  terror  has  ever 
existed — even  in  Russia.  The  nucleus  of  Monteverde's  army 
were  old  soldiers  of  the  Napoleonic  wars,  mercenaries,  hard- 
ened by  their  profession  of  bloodshed,  feeling  themselves 
alien  from  the  conquered  people.  They  played  a  role  in 
Venezuela  similar  to  that  of  the  Cossacks  in  present-day 
Russia.  The  brutality  and  rapine  of  the  allied  armies  at 
the  relief  of  the  legations  in  Pekin  did  not  exceed  the  cruelties 
of  these  men. 

Bolivar  decided  on  the  invasion  of  Venezuela.  Castillo, 
his  commanding  officer,  was  horrified  at  the  suggestion  of  so 
wild  an  adventure.  Bolivar  went  over  his  head  and  appealed 

384  PANAMA 

to  the  Junta.  It  is  doubtful  if  he  waited  for  their  authoriza- 
tion. One  thing  is  sure,  the  civil  commissioners  who  were 
appointed  to  accompany  him  never  caught  up  with  him. 
With  almost  incredible  speed,  he  had  thrown  his  little  com- 
pany of  six  hundred  across  one  of  the  low,  northern  passes 
of  the  Andes  and  was  in  the  midst  of  Venezuela,  before 
Monteverde  knew  he  had  started.  Revolt  broke  out  every- 
where. Monteverde  was  able  to  capture  a  small  force — 
almost  three  hundred  men — who  were  marching  to  join  the 
liberating  army.  Although  prisoners  of  war,  he  massacred 
them  all.  Bolivar  replied  by  the  famous  proclamation  of 
"War  to  the  death." 

It  is  inexplicable  how  the  human  mind  works,  how  it 
decides  what  acts  to  condemn  and  hold  in  abhorrence.  For 
instance,  history  teaches  us  that  the  French  Revolutionists 
of  1871  were  monsters.  During  the  three  months  of  the 
Commune  they  executed  about  thirty-five  royalists.  The 
victorious  army  of  Thiers  massacred  almost  as  many  thou- 
sands of  the  Communards.  Why  we  should  condemn  the 
former  act  and  not  the  latter  is  indeed  inexplicable.  Within 
our  more  recent  memory,  some  fanatical  Moors  at  Casa 
Blanca,  stirred  to  fury  by  the  actions  of  the  Europeans  in 
tearing  up  a  graveyard  to  make  way  for  a  railroad,  murdered 
a  half  a  dozen  of  them.  A  week  or  so  later,  the  French  fleet 
bombarded  Casa  Blanca  in  the  night,  killing  hundreds  of 
sleeping  women  and  children.  The  act  of  the  Moors  is  con- 
sidered an  outrage;  that  of  the  Christians  legitimate. 

Almost  every  biographer  of  Bolivar  condemns  him  severely 
for  this  proclamation  of  "War  to  the  death."  It  was  simply 
a  declaration  that  as  the  enemy  refused  to  carry  on  war  in 
the  manner  called  civilized,  the  patriots  would  do  the  same. 
If  the  Devil  persisted  in  using  fire,  so  would  the  revolution- 
ists. As  soon  as  Bolivar  came  into  contact  with  Spanish 
generals  who  were  less  devilish  than  Monteverde,  he  revoked 


this  decree  and  carried  on  his  later  campaigns  in  accordance 
with  the  ordinary  military  conventions. 

On  the  14th  of  August,  1814,  after  a  series  of  brilliant 
actions,  he  entered  Caracas  in  triumph.  The  civil  commis- 
sioners arrived  from  New  Granada,  and  they  ordered  him  to 
call  elections  for  a  Venezuelan  Congress  to  vote  on  a  union 
with  New  Granada.  On  the  ground  of  military  necessity,  he 
did  not  obey  the  letter  of  their  instruction.  He  assembled 
what  he  called  a  "  council  of  notables."  They  appointed 
him  Dictator  of  Venezuela  until  the  union  of  the  two  coun- 
tries could  be  effected. 

On  the  3d  of  December  he  met  Monteverde  in  a  pitched 
battle  at  Araure  and  defeated  him.  A  new  and  much  more 
able  general,  Boves,  now  assumed  command  of  the  Spanish 
forces.  And  with  the  spring  of  1814  commenced  a  successful 
campaign  which  ended  in  the  complete  defeat  of  Bolivar 
at  La  Puerta.  Once  more  he  was  compelled  to  flee.  He 
returned  to  New  Granada.  In  spite  of  the  disastrous  ending 
of  his  brilliant  Venezuelan  campaign,  the  Junta  gave  him 
command  of  an  army  and  dispatched  him  to  reduce  the  city 
of  Santa  Fe  de  Bogota,  which  had  revolted  from  the  federa- 
tion. He  performed  this  mission  with  a  rare  mixture  of  force 
and  diplomacy,  and  the  Junta  recognized  his  services  by 
making  him  captain-general  of  New  Granada.  As  he  was  a 
Venezuelan,  this  stirred  up  the  jealousy  of  native  officers, 
and  Bolivar  became  involved  in  a  disheartening  mess  of 
cheap  political  intrigue.  At  last  he  threw  up  his  commission 
in  disgust  and  retired  to  the  English  island  of  Jamaica.  Here 
the  first  of  a  long  series  of  unsuccessful  attempts  to  assas- 
sinate him  was  made  by  the  secret  agents  of  Spain. 

Meanwhile  Ferdinand  was  reseated  on  the  throne  at 
Madrid.  The  colonies  had  refused  to  submit  to  the  old 
embargo  laws  on  their  commerce.  A  punitive  expedition 
was  sent  out  under  the  command  of  Morillo,  a  general  of 

386  PANAMA 

much  experience  and  great  prestige.  In  July,  1815,  he  arrived 
off  Cartagena  with  two  ships -of -the -line,  six  frigates, 
seventy  transports  and  12,000  veteran  troops.  For  six 
months  the  patriots  held  out  in  the  fortress  of  Cartagena, 
but  were  at  last  reduced  by  starvation.  By  June,  1816, 
Morillo  had  fought  his  way  up  to  Bogota  and  sent  a  letter 
to  Ferdinand  in  which  he  boasted  that  he  had  not  "left  alive, 
in  the  Kingdom  of  New  Granada,  a  single  individual  of 
sufficient  influence  or  talents  to  conduct  the  revolution." 

This  was  the  darkest  period  for  the  cause  of  independence 
in  the  northern  provinces.  Morillo  was  supreme  in  New 
Granada.  Boves  had  suppressed  almost  all  resistance  in 
Venezuela.  Only  a  few  bands  of  "Llaneros,"  as  the  Spanish 
call  their  cowboys,  kept  up  a  desultory  guerilla  combat, 
under  Marino  and  Paez,  in  the  interior.  But  the  patriots 
had  no  regular  army  in  the  field. 

Bolivar,  however,  did  not  know  that  there  was  such  a 
word  as  discouragement.  At  the  time  when  the  great  earth- 
quake had  overthrown  the  First  Venezuelan  Republic,  he 
had  exclaimed:  "If  Nature  opposes  us,  we  will  wrestle  with 
her  and  compel  her  to  obey!"  And  now,  when  for  a  second 
time  the  cause  of  independence  seemed  to  others  hopelessly 
lost,  Bolivar  was  at  work  with  undimmed  faith.  He  had 
gone  to  Hayti  and  had  made  friends  with  that  noble  old 
negro,  Alexandre  Pelion,  the  president  of  the  Republic. 
He  helped  the  Venezuelan  revolutionist  to  outfit  a  filibuster. 
"When  your  expedition  shall  land,"  he  said  to  Bolivar,  "free 
the  slaves.  For  how  can  you  found  a  republic  where  slavery 
exists?"  Bolivar  at  once  freed  all  his  own  slaves;  it  was  his 
continued  advocacy  of  abolition  which  as  much  as  anything 
else  kept  the  United  States  from  assisting  the  Spanish  col- 
onies in  their  revolt. 

With  six  ships  and  a  handful  of  exiles,  he  made  an  unsuc- 
cessful raid  on  the  island  of  Margarita  in  May,  1816.  In 


December  of  the  same  year  he  made  another  effort  and  this 
time  with  success.  Using  the  island  as  a  base,  he  descended 
on  the  mainland  and  captured  the  port  of  Barcelona,  two 
hundred  miles  east  of  La  Guayra.  Here,  for  the  third  time, 
he  proclaimed  the  republic.  He  was  never  again  to  be  driven 
from  Venezuela  by  the  Spaniards.  The  tide  had  turned. 
Although  he  had  yet  to  meet  many  reverses,  the  flag  of 
independence  has  not  since  been  hauled  down  in  Venezuela. 

Bolivar  moved  inland  to  help  Marino's  guerillas  near 
Santo  Tomas  de  Angostura.  Morillo,  the  Spanish  general, 
had  hurried  to  Venezuela  at  the  first  news  of  Bolivar's  opera- 
tions. By  a  brilliant  dash  a  Spanish  force  under  General 
Aldama  captured  Barcelona  behind  the  Liberator's  back. 
Here  Aldama  massacred  the  seven  hundred  soldiers  of  the 
garrison,  three  hundred  non-combatants,  including  women 
and  children,  and  the  fifty  invalids  he  found  in  the  hospital. 

Bolivar  moved  his  capital  to  Angostura,  and  was  rapidly 
consolidating  his  government.  He  sent  out  summons  for  a 
national  congress.  During  this  year  occurred  an  incident 
around  which  much  hostile  criticism  of  Bolivar  centered 
— the  execution  for  treason  of  General  Manuel  Carlos  Piar. 

The  enemies  of  Bolivar  claim  that  he  caused  Piar's  execu- 
tion in  order  to  rid  himself  of  a  dangerous  rival  in  the  affec- 
tions of  the  army.  However,  there  seems  to  be  good  evi- 
dence that  while  an  officer  of  Miranda's  army,  Piar  had  been 
guilty  of  an  attempt  to  sell  himself  to  Monteverde — at  least, 
finding  himself  under  such  suspicion,  he  deserted.  In  1816 
he  had  met  Bolivar  in  Hayti  and  had  won  forgiveness.  Boli- 
var made  him  a  major-general  in  the  invading  army.  He 
distinguished  himself  as  an  officer,  winning  a  brilliant  victory 
at  San  Felix  in  April,  1817.  Evidence  of  a  second  conspiracy 
sufficient  to  satisfy  the  court-martial  was  brought  against 
him  and  he  was  shot  at  Angostura,  October  16,  1817.  The 
justice  of  court-martial  is  notoriously  uncertain.  And  Bolivar, 

388  PANAMA 

as  he  had  shown  in  his  conduct  towards  Miranda,  was  of  a 
suspicious  nature.  But  it  seems  foreign  to  his  character 
to  have  used  his  great  personal  power  to  make  way  with  an 
able  lieutenant  because  of  petty  jealousy. 

The  year  1818  passed  in  indecisive  campaigns.  There  was 
continual  skirmishing,  but  no  decisive  engagements. 

The  second  congress  of  Venezuela  assembled  in  February, 
1819,  at  Angostura.  Bolivar  resigned  from  the  dictatorship 
and  was  promptly  re-elected.  During  the  preceding  year 
he  had  recruited  a  foreign  legion,  formed  principally  from 
Irish  and  English  veterans  of  the  continental  wars.  His 
native  troops  were  mostly  cavalry.  The  foreign  legion  gave 
him  his  necessary  infantry. 

As  soon  as  congress  had  assembled,  Bolivar  took  the  field 
again.  He  recaptured  Barcelona,  which,  in  giving  him  a 
seaport  for  the  free  importation  of  ammunition  and  supplies, 
greatly  strengthened  his  position.  Morillo,  however,  had 
12,000  trained  soldiers,  and  was  too  strong  to  be  met  in  an 
open  battle.  Morillo  was  a  wily  old  general.  He  saw  in 
Bolivar  the  soul  of  the  revolt,  and  he  was  concentrating 
every  effort  to  annihilate  him  and  end  the  revolution.  He 
believed  that  New  Granada  had  been  thoroughly  cowed,  and 
he  practically  denuded  that  province  of  troops  in  his  desire 
to  overwhelm  Bolivar  with  numbers. 

Bolivar  was  not  the  kind  of  a  spirit  to  accept  the  apparent 
necessity  of  a  Fabian  campaign.  The  very  odds  which 
Morillo  was  gathering  against  him  gave  him  the  hint  which 
developed  into  the  most  brilliant  proof  of  his  military  genius. 
Leaving  Paez  in  command  of  the  native  cavalry,  with  instruc- 
tions to  continually  harass  Morillo,  but  avoid  a  battle,  he 
assembled  the  pick  of  his  army,  five  hundred  of  the  foreign 
legion  and  two  thousand  Venezuelans,  and  dashed  up  the 
valley  of  the  Cosnare  towards  the  high  Andes — and  New 


As  ordinarily  happened,  Bolivar  made  this  move  without 
asking  any  one's  consent.  As  soon  as  he  disappeared  in  the 
depths  of  the  Cordilleras — Morillo,  when  he  heard  of  it,  called 
it  a  "  military  delirium  " — the  Venezuelan  patriots  denounced 
him  as  a  traitor  and  made  General  Marino  dictator  in  his 
place.  But  Bolivar  had  lost  communication  with  Angostura 
and  knew  nothing  of  this.  He  inspired  his  men  to  persist 
in  their  advance  in  the  midst  of  incredible  hardships.  The 
marches  of  Hannibal  and  Napoleon  across  the  Alps  were 
child's  play  to  this  raid.  Almost  all  of  their  horses  and 
many  of  the  men  perished  in  the  Arctic  climate  of  the  high 
mountains.  Although  the  distance  was  less  than  a  hun- 
dred miles  it  took  the  army  of  liberators  almost  a  month 
to  get  across. 

General  Barreiro,  the  Spanish  commandant  of  New  Gra- 
nada, could  only  muster  three  thousand  men  to  meet  the 
invaders.  The  natives  gave  what  assistance  they  could  in 
the  way  of  provisions  to  the  famished  army,  and  Bolivar 
was  able  to  remount  most  of  his  cavalry  before  he  met  the 
Spaniards.  By  making  a  flank  movement  instead  of  accept- 
ing immediate  battle,  Bolivar,  after  a  brisk  skirmish,  on  the 
22d  of  July  occupied  the  town  of  Tunja.  This  put  him 
between  Barreiro  and  his  base  of  supplies  at  Bogota.  The 
Spaniards  were  compelled  to  attack,  and  on  August  7th  were 
utterly  defeated  at  Boyaca.  Barreiro,  nearly  all  his  officers 
and  over  half  his  men  were  captured.  This  battle  put  a 
definite  end  to  Spanish  rule  in  all  of  New  Granada  except  the 
Isthmus  of  Panama.  The  next  day  Bolivar  entered  Bogota. 

He  returned  at  once  to  Venezuela  to  report  his  victory 
to  the  congress  in  session  at  Angostura.  They  promptly 
forgave  him  for  having  deserted  them  to  conquer  New  Gra- 
nada, and  re-elected  him  dictator.  He  had  brought  with  him 
a  formal  request  for  the  union  of  the  two  countries. 

Then  followed  many  months  of  bitter  debate  over  the  form 

390  PANAMA 

of  constitution.  Bolivar  had  become  separated  in  thought 
from  his  old  associates  of  the  Society  of  Patriots.  He  was 
no  longer  the  extreme  democrat  he  had  been  as  a  youth, 
when  under  the  influence  of  Miranda.  His  experience  with 
the  political  turmoil  of  New  Granada — the  rivalry  of  petty 
" sovereign  states" — had  sickened  him  with  the  federal  form 
of  government.  As  a  man  of  action,  he  had  become  disgusted 
with  the  intriguing  of  raw,  inexperienced  democracy.  But 
he  also  was  a  dreamer,  and  his  dream,  which  extended  far 
beyond  the  frontiers  of  his  native  land,  even  farther  separated 
him  from  his  old  friends.  He  felt  that  nothing  was  accom- 
plished so  long  as  the  Spanish  flag  remained  anywhere  on 
the  American  continent.  While  their  lawyers  were  becoming 
eloquent  over  the  rights  of  constituent  states  of  Venezuela 
and  New  Granada,  and  maintaining  that  perfect  liberty 
could  only  exist  in  a  loose  federation,  Bolivar  realized  that 
the  war  of  independence  was  by  no  means  over,  that  he  had 
more  to  fear  from  political  intrigues  in  his  own  capital  than 
from  Spanish  generals,  that  for  the  great  purpose  of  freeing 
the  continent — his  dream  also  included  Cuba  and  the  Phil- 
ippines— a  strong  centralized  government,  essentially  mili- 
tary, was  more  needful  than  the  granting  of  franchises  to 
illiterate  peons.  All  these  considerations  forced  him  to  advo- 
cate a  policy  which  the  true  democrats,  the  disciples  of 
Rousseau  and  Jefferson,  denounced  as  reactionary.  And 
certainly  a  like  verdict  would  fall  on  any  one  who  advocated 
the  same  measures  in  a  settled  democracy  to-day. 

However,  there  was  nothing  underhand  in  Bolivar's 
opposition  to  thorough-going  democracy.  He  spoke  of  liberty 
as  an  island  against  which  beat  alternate  waves  of  tyranny 
and  chaos.  These  excerpts  from  his  speeches  before  the 
Angostura  Congress  plainly  show  the  trend  of  his  thought: 

"It  is  more  difficult  to  maintain  the  equilibrium  of  liberty 
than  to  sustain  the  weight  of  tyranny." 


"The  people  more  frequently  than  the  government  bring 
in  tyranny." 

"  Pisistratus,  an  usurper  and  a  despot,  did  more  good  to 
Athens  than  her  laws.  .  .  .  The  republic  of  Thebes  ex- 
isted only  during  the  lives  of  Pelopidas  and  Epaminondos, 
for  it  is  men,  not  principles,  which  form  governments." 

"Angels  alone,  and  not  men,  can  exist  free,  peaceable 
and  happy  in  the  exercise  of  sovereign  power." 

He  had  indeed  swung  round  entirely  from  his  former  posi- 
tion; he  quoted  no  more  from  Jefferson;  he  had  become  an 
advocate  of  the  doctrines  of  Hamilton. 

He  asked  for  a  hereditary  legislature  of  very  limited 
power.  It  was  to  be  chosen  by  limited  suffrage  and  do  little 
but  elect  a  president  with  dictatorial  powers.  All  the  other 
officers  of  the  state  were  to  be  chosen  by  this  chief  executive. 
As  there  was  no  possibility  of  any  one  else  being  chosen  as 
president ;  he  was  practically  asking  for  supreme  power. 

The  example  of  Napoleon  was  too  fresh  in  the  minds  of 
men  to  allow  the  patriots  to  hand  themselves  over  thus  bound 
to  any  individual.  They  were  in  the  embarrassing  position 
of  wanting  a  man  on  horseback  who  would  not  trample  on 
them.  The  result  was  a  compromise.  Bolivar's  ideas  on 
centralization  were  adopted,  but  the  advanced  democrats 
won  on  the  other  points  at  issue.  This  constitution  was 
adopted  on  the  17th  of  December,  1819,  and  Bolivar  was 
elected  president  of  the  new  Republic  of  Colombia. 

There  was  a  desultory  campaign  in  1820.  And  in  the 
spring  of  the  next  year,  Bolivar  took  the  field  with  a  splendid 
army  of  15,000.  His  foreign  legion  had  grown  to  two  thou- 
sand. General  Morillo  had  returned  to  Spain,  and  had  been 
superseded  by  General  Torre.  The  decisive  battle  came 
on  June  24th,  at  Carabobo,  where  the  Venezuelan  cavalry, 
under  Paez,  completely  overthrew  the  last  Spanish  army. 
Torre  retreated  to  Puerto  Cabello.  This  fortress  and  that 

392  PANAMA 

of  Panama,  which  dominated  the  Isthmus,  were  all  that  re- 
mained of  the  Spanish  Empire  in  northern  South  America. 
Within  a  few  months  the  people  of  Panama  proclaimed 
their  independence  and  entered  the  Colombian  Union. 
Puerto  Cabello  held  out  until  1823. 

Bolivar,  at  the  height  of  his  popularity,  was  by  no  means 
ready  to  lay  down  his  arms.  In  the  spring  of  1822  he 
marched  out  of  Bogota  with  his  army  of  veterans  to  liberate 
Ecuador.  On  the  7th  of  March  he  defeated  a  strong  Spanish 
force  at  Bompono.  His  advance  was  checked  by  a  stubborn 
resistance  and  almost  impassable  mountain  barriers.  But 
on  the  24th  of  May  his  able  general,  Sucre,  who  had  landed 
with  another  army  at  Quayaquil,  overthrew  Spanish  author- 
ity in  Ecuador  by  a  brilliant  victory  at  Pinchincha.  This 
opened  the  road  to  Bolivar,  and  he  entered  Quito  on  the 
16th  of  June,  the  same  day  that  John  Quincy  Adams  recog- 
nized the  independence  of  Colombia  by  officially  receiving 
her  charge"  d'affaires  at  the  White  House.  The  newly-freed 
state  joined  the  Republic  of  Colombia. 

While  this  long  war  had  been  going  on  in  the  north,  a 
similar  struggle  had  been  waged  in  the  south.  And  as  Bolivar 
had  risen  to  pre-eminence  in  the  Colombian  army,  so  a 
general  named  Jose  de  San  Martin  had  won  the  title  of 
Liberator  of  the  South.  Starting  out  from  Argentina,  he 
had  freed  Chili  and  the  largest  part  of  Peru. 

In  many  ways  his  career  had  been  similar  to  Bolivar's. 
He  had  led  an  army  across  a  pass  of  the  Andes,  which  was 
supposed  to  be  impossible.  More  than  once  he  had  snatched 
victory  from  defeat  by  an  act  of  rank  insubordination.  But 
in  character  he  was  the  opposite  of  Bolivar.  Extremely 
modest  and  retiring,  he  stuck  much  more  closely  to  his  pro- 
fession of  arms.  He  seems  to  have  had  no  personal  ambition, 
and  to  have  held  politics  in  abhorrence. 

On  the  22d  of  July,   1822,  San  Martin  came  up  from 


Callao  to  meet  Bolivar  at  Guayaquil.  What  happened  in 
their  long  private  interview  no  one  knows.  After  it,  San 
Martin  returned  to  Callao  and  resigned  from  the  dictator- 
ship. The  Peruvians  offered  him  10,000  ounces  of  gold  for 
his  services.  He  accepted  only  three  thousand  dollars,  and 
sailed  with  his  daughter  to  England,  where  he  lived  and  died 
in  obscurity. 

The  enemies  of  Bolivar  claim  that  San  Martin  proposed 
a  joint  campaign  against  the  remaining  Spanish  forces  in 
Peru,  even  offered  to  accept  a  subordinate  position,  but  that 
Bolivar,  ambitious  to  monopolize  all  the  glory  of  the  libera- 
tion, would  not  accept  his  co-operation  under  any  terms. 
But  the  frequency  with  which  he  allowed  his  own  generals, 
Paez  and  Sucre,  to  win  fame  by  commanding  in  decisive 
battles  seems  to  militate  against  this  explanation.  I  have 
not  been  able  to  find  any  account  of  this  meeting  from  the 
pens  of  any  of  Bolivar's  friends. 

Bolivar  waited  impatiently  in  Ecuador  for  the  Peruvians 
to  invite  his  assistance  in  finishing  the  work  which  San  Martin 
had  left.  But  his  enemies  had  so  industriously  spread  stories 
of  his  Napoleonic  ambitions  that  the  Peruvians  were  afraid 
of  him  and  decided  to  finish  off  the  remaining  Spaniards 
themselves.  But  one  after  the  other,  their  two  armies 
were  defeated  by  General  Conterac,  who  was  the  most  able 
soldier  that  Spain  had  sent  out  to  the  colonies.  When 
Conterac  recaptured  Lima,  the  capital,  the  patriots  buried 
their  distrust  of  Bolivar  and  sent  him  an  urgent  appeal. 
Sucre  took  the  first  section  of  the  Colombian  army  to  Peru. 
Bolivar  arrived  the  first  of  September  with  the  main  guard. 
All  that  was  left  of  the  Peruvian  congress  assembled  and 
pronounced  him  protector  and  dictator.  On  August  7,  1824, 
with  a  picked  army  composed  of  his  own  and  San  Martin's 
veterans,  he  defeated  the  Spaniards  at  Junin.  Bolivar  re- 
turned to  Lima  to  straighten  out  his  political  affairs,  leaving 

394  PANAMA 

Sucre  in  command  to  deliver  the  coup-de-grace.  On  Decem- 
ber 9th  the  final  battle  took  place  at  Ayacucho.  Sucre's 
veterans  completely  overthrew  the  Spaniards  and  ended 
the  war  in  Peru. 

Sucre  followed  up  his  victory  by  leading  his  army  into 
the  province  of  Upper  Peru  (now  Bolivia),  the  last  strong- 
hold of  the  royalists.  The  fighting  had  been  severe  there 
for  many  years,  and  the  population  rose  as  a  man  to  greet 
the  delivering  army.  The  province  was  liberated  without  a 
battle,  and  the  great  war  of  independence  was  over.  The 
newly-freed  province  named  itself  Bolivia,  in  honor  of  the 
liberator,  and  practically  offered  him  the  crown.  This  was 
only  one  of  many  times  when  Bolivar,  if  he  had  been  at 
heart  the  monarchist  his  enemies  maintained,  could  have 
acquired  a  throne. 

Instead,  he  drew  up  the  "Codigo  Boliviano."  It  was,  I 
suppose,  as  good  a  constitution  as  one  could  expect  from  a 
soldier.  It  was  not,  however,  anything  like  so  workable 
a  document  as  the  "Code  Napoleon."  Bolivar  gave  free 
expression  to  the  anti-democratic  tendency  he  had  so 
clearly  enunciated  years  before  at .  the  Congress  of  An- 

The  constitution,  written  in  his  own  hand,  and  which  he 
repeatedly  announced  as  his  profession  of  political  faith, 
provided  for  a  life  president  who  could  nominate  his  successor. 
The  principal  novelty  was  that  each  group  of  ten  citizens 
should  elect  one  of  their  number  as  a  general  elector.  The 
other  nine  were  then  to  retire  to  the  shade  of  their  fig-tree 
and  forget  all  about  politics  for  four  years — until  time  to 
choose  a  new  elector.  It  was  an  immensely  complex  instru- 
ment. The  Bolivians  swallowed  it  without  amending  a  word. 
And  Sucre  was  chosen  president  for  life. 

Bolivar  returned  to  Peru  to  force  his  pet  constitution 
on  that  country,  and  in  a  decidedly  high-handed  manner 


succeeded.  The  news  reached  him  that  a  secession  move- 
ment, inspired  by  the  old  distaste  to  a  centralized  govern- 
ment, had  broken  out  in  Venezuela,  under  his  old  companion 
in  arms,  Paez. 

How  far  Bolivar  had  become  personally  ambitious,  how 
often  he  allowed  himself  to  dream  of  an  imperial  crown,  no 
one  will  ever  know.  It  is  beyond  dispute  that  with  clear- 
sighted vision  he  foresaw  the  political  chaos,  the  revolutions 
and  counter  revolutions,  which  were  to  disturb  the  great 
continent  to  whose  freedom  he  had  dedicated  his  life.  That 
he  dreamed  of  welding  all  the  old  colonies  into  a  stable 
united  nation  is  proven  by  almost  all  his  speeches  and  letters. 
However,  it  was  a  hopeless  dream.  The  chief  grievance  of 
the  Spanish  colonies  had  for  a  couple  of  centuries  been  the 
lack  of  home  rule.  All  their  ills  had  come  from  a  distant 
administration.  The  one  thing  on  which  the  Latin  Americans 
were  united  was  a  passionate  desire  for  autonomy.  An  em- 
pire cannot  be  built  on  such  a  motive.  Under  the  enthusiasm 
of  the  war  of  independence  Bolivar  had  been  able  to  hush 
the  universal  demand  for  home  rule.  Now  that  the  last 
battle  had  been  fought,  the  old  issue  came  to  life  with 
redoubled  vigor. 

On  the  22d  of  June,  1826,  just  twenty  years  after  Miranda's 
disastrous  filibuster  on  the  Leander,  Bolivar's  Pan-American 
Congress  assembled  at  Panama.  Mexico,  Central  America 
and  the  South  American  states,  dominated  by  Bolivar,  sent 
delegates.  Chile  and  Argentina,  fearing  that  the  Congress 
was  to  be  a  pretext  for  him  to  spring  his  imperial  con- 
spiracy, did  ( not  co-operate.  Among  other  resolutions,  the 
Congress  adopted  the  following,  dictated  by  Bolivar: 

"The  Republics  of  Colombia,  Central  America,  Peru,  and 
the  Mexican  States,  do  mutually  ally  and  confederate  them- 
selves in  peace  and  war  in  a  perpetual  compact,  the  object 
of  which  shall  be  to  maintain  the  sovereignty  and  indepen- 

396  PANAMA 

dence  of  the  confederated  powers  against  foreign  subjection 
and  to  secure  the  enjoyment  of  unalterable  peace." 

Nothing  was  accomplished  at  this  congress  beyond  the 
proclaiming  of  this  ideal  of  Latin- American  unity.  All  the 
contracting  parties  promptly  fell  into  civil  war.  But  the 
ideal  gains  ground  year  by  year.  The  five  republics  of 
Central  America  now  have  an  arbitration  treaty;  Chile  and 
Argentina  also.  Our  Bureau  of  American  Republics  and  the 
frequent  Pan-American  congresses  are  knitting  these  neigh- 
bors of  ours  into  closer  unity  every  day.  In  some  not  too 
distant  day  the  ideal  of  the  Great  Liberator  will  be  realized. 

Bolivar  returned  to  Bogota  and  tried  to  bring  order  out 
of  the  chaos  of  the  Colombian  republic.  The  congress  refused 
to  accept  his  Codigo  Boliviano.  Peru  threw  off  her  allegiance 
to  him.  And  some  of  his  old  veterans — ardent  republicans — 
whom  he  had  left  in  Peru,  believing  in  the  stories  of  his 
treason,  started  north  to  protect  their  country  against  his 
ambitions.  The  secessionist  movement  in  Venezuela  was 
continually  growing.  His  own  people  began  to  plot  his 
assassination.  At  last  in  January,  1830,  he  again  tendered 
his  resignation.  The  congress  refused  to  accept  it.  The 
revolted  province  of  Venezuela  voted  him  a  pension  on  con- 
dition that  he  would  never  set  foot  in  the  country  again. 
This  seems  to  have  broken  his  heart.  Although  not  old  in 
years,  the  two  decades  of  continual  campaigning  had  worn 
him  out.  In  April  he  resigned  definitely,  determined  to 
retire  to  private  life  abroad. 

Seven  miles  before  reaching  the  port  of  Santa  Marta, 
where  a  ship  was  waiting  for  him,  he  heard  that  Bolivia  had 
risen  in  revolution;  they  had  repudiated  his  Codigo  Boliviano, 
and  his  dearest  friend,  Sucre,  had  been  assassinated.  He 
broke  down  completely,  and  died  on  the  17th  of  December, 
in  the  little  village  of  San  Pedro. 



THE  man  who  discovered  gold  in  California  indirectly 
affected  the  Isthmus  more  profoundly  than  any  person  since 
Columbus,  who  discovered  it. 

The  misguided  colonial  policy  of  Spain  had  killed  the 
trade  of  her  American  possessions.  Commerce  had  not  re- 
vived during  the  thirty  years  of  independence.  It  is  hard 
for  us  to-day  to  realize  how  far  off  the  west  coast  of  Amer- 
ica was  in  the  fifties.  The  Chinese  ports  were  in  more  fre- 
quent communication  with  Europe  and  New  York,  than 
were  Valparaiso  and  San  Francisco.  What  little  trade  there 
was  went  around  the  Horn  or  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope. 
There  was  no  regular  transit  across  the  Isthmus.  Many  a 
person  lived  and  died  in  Panama  without  ever  having  seen 
the  Atlantic,  less  than  fifty  miles  away.  A  few  muleteers 
kept  up  an  intermittent  transportation  of  merchandise  and 
mail  along  the  old  road,  which  had  once  been  the  route  of 
half  the  wealth  of  the  world. 

The  discovery  of  California  gold  and  the  rush  of  '49  woke 
the  Isthmus  from  its  long  sleep.  The  trail  across  the  Great 
Desert  by  " prairie  schooners"  was  long  and  expensive  and 
dangerous.  New  routes  were  established  across  Nicaragua 
and  Panama.  The  latter  proved  the  more  popular. 

The  number  of  people  who  used  this  route  is  almost 
incredible.  They  came  by  boat  from  New  York  to  Chagres, 
a  small  town  at  the  mouth  of  the  famous  river,  went  up- 
stream in  native  boats  to  Gorgona  or  Cruces,  and  then  by 


398  PANAMA 

mule  over  the  old  Spanish  road  to  Panama.  Sometimes  in 
the  dry  season  as  many  as  three  or  four  thousand  would 
cross,  going  or  coming,  in  a  week!  Of  course  there  were  no 
accommodations  for  such  a  horde  of  immigrants.  The  hard- 
ships suffered  were  appalling. 

In  1851  a  little  book  was  published  by  Dr.  E.  L.  Auten- 
rieth  of  Panama,  called,  "A  Topographical  Map  of  the 
Isthmus  of  Panama  .  .  .  with  a  few  Accompanying 
Remarks  for  the  use  of  Travellers." 

"Chagres  is,"  he  writes,  "an  unhealthy  place;  but  it 
cannot  be  denied,  that  a  great  deal  of  the  sickness  prevail- 
ing here  must  be  ascribed  to  the  terribly  bad  food  every- 
one is  compelled  to  eat.  .  .  . 

"Crossing  the  Isthmus  in  the  dry  season  is  certainly  a 
pleasant  trip,  if  reasonable  precautions  are  taken,  and  pro- 
visions for  a  few  days  are  carried  along;  but  any  journey 
during  the  rainy  season,  from  May  until  December,  will 
certainly  be  full  of  hardship  and  danger  so  long  as  this  com- 
plete want  of  conveniences  and  provisions  shall  exist.  We 
hope  the  railroad  company  will  succeed  in  their  endeavour 
to  reach  Gorgona  before  the  next  rainy  season,  and  if, 
moreover,  as  is  contemplated,  a  good  mule  road  is  opened 
from  Gorgona  to  the  Cruces  road,  the  crossing  will  be  a  deal 
easier,  and  an  express  might  reach  Panama"  in  twelve  hours 
after  leaving  Navy  Bay.  The  distance  from  Chagres  to 
Panama",  in  a  straight  line,  is  not  fully  thirty-eight  miles, 
and  yet  I  met  a  great  many  who  were  compelled  to  spend 
seven  or  eight  days  in  crossing,  being  exposed  to  the  heaviest 
rains,  unable  to  obtain  food  or  a  comfortable  place  to  lie 
down  at  night,  or  a  spot  where  to  dry  their  wet  clothes. 

"All  who  intend  to  cross  the  Isthmus,  ought  to  provide 
themselves  with  some  provisions,  such  as  good  hams,  smoked 
tongues  or  sausages,  pickles,  good  coffee,  and  their  accus- 
tomed drinks;  a  good  blanket;  if  in  the  rainy  season,  a  light 


india-rubber  overcoat  and  leggings;  also  an  umbrella.  These 
should  never  be  omitted.  .  .  . 

"If  you  have  Indians  for  boatmen,  I  would  advise  you  not 
to  be  too  friendly,  but  at  the  same  time  to  be  careful  not  to 
insult  them  or  act  in  an  overbearing  manner. 

"I  was  told  by  boatmen  of  mine,  that  boats  had  fre- 
quently been  upset,  and  passengers'  lives  endangered,  in 
consequence  of  their  overbearing  and  inhuman  treatment  of 
the  Indians.  Negroes  and  Griffs  are  in  far  worse  repute 
then  the  full-blood  Indians;  they  are  regarded  as  lazier, 
more  malicious,  and  dishonest;  therefore  deal  with  Indians 
in  preference.  .  .  . 

"The  Cruces  road  is  shorter  than  the  one  at  Gorgona  by 
about  two  miles,  but  far  worse  to  pass  over.  From  Cruces 
to  Cruz  de  Cardenas,  the  place  where  the  two  paths  meet, 
is  certainly  the  worst  and  most  fatiguing  road  we  ever 
travelled.  There  are  no  high  mountains  with  abysses,  which 
would  present  great  obstacles  to  making  a  good  road,  if 
hands  could  be  obtained  to  do  the  work.  It  seems  that  long 
before  the  Spaniards  came  to  the  country  the  rain  had 
washed  off,  at  certain  places,  the  ground  from  the  rock 
below,  and  particularly  at  such  spots  where,  by  the  forma- 
tion of  the  rock,  a  fissure  was  left.  These  places  presented 
a  solid  foundation  for  the  feet  of  oxen  and  horses  during  the 
rainy  season,  and  were  therefore  selected  for  crossing,  and 
by  connecting  the  different  gullies  with  each  other,  the  so- 
called  Cruces  road  was  established. 

"In  consequence  of  the  continued  passing  of  mules,  these 
gullies  have  deepened  in  some  places  to  a  depth  of  about 
thirty  feet,  narrowing  towards  the  bottom,  which  at  some 
places  is  not  over  two  feet  wide.  That  through  such  defiles 
only  one  mule  after  the  other  can  pass,  is  easily  understood; 
and  if  two  parties  meet,  one  is  compelled  to  turn  back. 
When  this  happens  it  is  not  always  accomplished  without 

400  PANAMA 

difficulties.  To  avoid  collisions,  the  arrieros  (mule-drivers) 
will  give,  before  entering,  whoops,  which  are  immediately 
answered  by  the  party  inside.  It  is  stated  that  F.  Pizarro, 
the  conqueror  of  Peru,  ordered  the  paving  of  this  road, 
which  was  done  with  large  round  stones,  sometimes  a  foot 
and  a  half  in  diameter.  Since  Panamd  sunk  into  insignifi- 
cance this  pavement  has  been  entirely  neglected,  and  is  now 
completely  broken;  and  the  big  stones  are  lying  loose  and 
in  great  disorder,  where  formerly  there  was  a  pavement. 

"This  is  the  principal  cause  of  the  abominable  state  of 
the  road  at  this  time.  It  is  astonishing  that  the  mules  are 
capable  of  passing  at  all  over  these  loose  heaps  of  round 
stones,  with  a  load  on  their  backs. 

"At  the  places  where  no  pavement  was  needed  the  rock  is 
often  excavated  by  the  shoes  of  the  mules  in  such  a  manner 
that  a  series  of  holes,  sometimes  more  than  a  foot  deep, 
have  been  produced,  leaving  a  ridge  of  the  rock  between 
each  hole;  these  are  the  most  dangerous  places  for  passing; 
the  mule  has  to  proceed  with  great  caution,  or  he  will  fall. 
Fortunately  such  spots  do  not  occur  very  frequently." 

As  fast  as  sections  of  the  Panama  railroad  were  opened 
it  was  used  by  the  prospectors.  But  until  its  completion  in 
1855  part  of  the  old  route  was  used.  One  of  the  most  inter- 
esting accounts  of  those  days  is  found  in  a  report  of  the 
surgeon  attached  to  the  Fourth  United  States  Infantry. 
They  crossed,  en  route  for  garrison  duty  in  California, 
during  the  rainy  season  of  1852.  The  Captain  Grant  re- 
ferred to  in  the  report  was  later  to  become  famous  at  Appo- 
mattox  Court  House  and  to  enter  the  White  House. 


September  14,  1852. 

SIR:  The  occurrence  of  malignant  cholera  in  the  Fourth  regiment  of 
infantry,  which  I  accompanied  from  New  York  to  California,  seemed 
to  me  to  require  that  I  should  make  a  special  report  to  you  upon  the 




subject.  I  have,  therefore,  made  a  report  of  the  sick  of  that  regiment 
up  to  the  31st  August,  and  beg  leave  to  accompany  it  with  the  following 
remarks : 

The  regiment  was  concentrated  at  Fort  Columbus,  New  York,  in 
obedience  to  orders  from  the  War  Department,  the  last  company 
having  arrived  on  the  23d  June.  On  that  day  243  recruits  were  received 
and  examined.  On  the  evening  of  the  2d  July,  a  telegraphic  order 
was  received  for  the  troops  to  embark  on  the  5th.  On  the  evening  of 
the  3d  July,  about  150  more  recruits  were  received  and  examined. 
On  the  5th  July  eight  companies  of  the  regiment,  with  the  band  and 
headquarters,  were  embarked  on  the  United  States  mail  steamer  Ohio, 
bound  for  Aspinwall,  New  Granada.  We  had  a  good  deal  of  diarrhoea 
among  our  men  during  their  stay  at  Governor's  Island,  but  it  was  quite 
manageable,  and  when  we  embarked  I  did  not  consider  it  necessary  to 
leave  but  one  man  in  the  hospital;  he  was  recovering  from  a  broken 
leg,  and  would  not  have  been  able  to  march  across  the  Isthmus.  The 
Ohio  was  a  large  ship,  as  to  tonnage,  and  in  that  respect,  capable  of 
carrying  our  whole  command;  but  her  room  is  so  badly  distributed 
that  we  should  have  been  crowded  had  there  been  no  other  passengers. 
Our  command,  including  women  and  children,  was  about  800.  We 
had,  however,  all  told,  passengers,  crow,  etc.,  1,100  on  board.  This 
was  altogether  too  many  people  for  her  accommodations  at  that  season 
of  the  year,  and  in  a  voyage  to  the  tropics.  We,  however,  reached 
Aspinwall  on  the  16th  July,  without  losing  a  man.  We  had  a  number 
of  cases  of  both  diarrhoea  and  constipation,  and  a  few  cases  of  fever 
on  the  voyage.  Our  sick  report,  nevertheless,  was  very  small  upon 
landing.  One  man  (the  bandmaster),  sick  with  chronic  diarrhoea,  had 
sunk  so  much  on  the  voyage  I  was  obliged  to  leave  him  on  the  ship, 
where  he  died  two  days  afterwards. 

On  the  voyage  I  had  endeavored  to  impress  upon  the  commanding 
officer  the  necessity  of  preventing  the  men  from  eating  the  fruits  of  the 
country,  and  from  indulging  in  any  of  the  liquors  they  would  meet 
with  on  the  march.  A  very  judicious  order,  embracing  these  views, 
was  issued  previous  to  our  debarkation.  I  am  sorry  to  say,  however, 
it  was  not  observed  on  the  march.  Had  it  been  strictly  obeyed,  I  think 
we  should  have  been  spared  much  suffering.  It  being  the  height  of  the 
rainy  season  when  we  reached  the  Isthmus  we  were  much  embarrassed 
by  the  state  of  the  roads;  by  rains  every  day;  by  the  extreme  heat 
and  by  the  epidemic  influences  prevailing. 

Cholera  existed  at  Aspinwall  when  we  landed.  It  had  been  very 
fatal  a  short  time  previously  among  the  laborers  on  the  railroad,  in 

402  PANAMA 

consequence  of  which  they  had  very  generally  abandoned  the  work. 
Forty  laborers  out  of  one  hundred,  I  was  told,  had  died  at  one  station. 
It  was  existing  at  both  Graces  and  Gorgona  on  the  route — points  we 
were  obliged  to  pass — and  at  both  of  which  we  were  unfortunately 
detained.  We  found  it  also  at  Panama  upon  our  arrival  there. 

Notwithstanding  all  this,  and  the  cautions  in  the  order  of  march, 
the  men  had  no  sooner  been  permitted  to  land  to  procure  water,  than 
numbers  of  them  sought  the  first  tavern  they  could  find,  to  indulge 
their  fatal  craving  for  liquor.  Many  were  brought  back  on  board  that 
night  intoxicated  and  drenched  with  rain.  Fruits  were  also  eaten 
with  avidity  whenever  they  could  be  procured. 

As  we  did  not  reach  Aspinwall  until  after  the  departure  of  the  daily 
train  of  cars  we  were  obliged  to  remain  there  until  next  morning. 
Our  baggage,  however,  was  principally  landed,  and  stowed  in  the  cars 
that  afternoon,  and  this  operation  was  completed  early  the  next  morning. 
When  the  hour  arrived  for  starting,  it  was  found  that  the  locomotives 
were  too  light  to  carry  more  than  half  our  men  in  one  train.  They 
were  accordingly  despatched  in  two  trains  at  intervals  of  an  hour, 
and  then  the  baggage  had  to  be  left  to  be  brought  by  a  return  engine. 
Arrived  at  Barbacoas,  the  present  terminus  of  the  railway,  Colonel 
Bonneville  informed  me  that  it  was  determined  to  march  the  main 
body  of  the  men  from  Gorgona  to  Panama;  that  the  sick,  the  women, 
the  baggage,  and  one  company  would  proceed  to  Cruces,  where  the 
mule  transportation  would  be  provided,  and  whence  they  would  also 
proceed  to  Panama.  I  was  ordered  to  accompany  this  last  detachment. 
Colonel  Bonneville  then  proceeded  at  once  in  boats  to  Gorgona.  Colonel 
Wright  was  to  follow  when  the  baggage  came  up.  The  baggage  did 
not  arrive  till  after  dark;  too  late  to  transfer  it  to  the  boats. 

In  the  morning  it  was  discovered  that  the  hospital  stores  were  not 
contained  in  those  cars.  I  had  a  special  messenger  sent  back  to  bring 
them  up  immediately.  Colonel  Wright  went  on  with  the  battalion, 
leaving  me,  a  subaltern,  and  a  small  guard,  with  the  sick.  My  mes- 
senger did  not  return  till  late  in  the  afternoon,  and  then  brought  up 
but  four  packages  out  of  thirty,  declaring  there  were  no  more  to  be 
found.  This  made  it  necessary  for  me  to  return  to  Aspinwall,  which 
I  did  that  night  upon  a  hand  car.  I  found  my  stores  in  the  first  baggage 
car  I  met  with  in  the  depot,  and  the  next  morning  carried  them  to  Bar- 
bacaos  in  a  special  train  furnished  me  by  Colonel  Totten,  the  engineer 
of  the  road.  I  proceeded  at  once  up  the  river  to  Cruces,  a  distance  of 
twelve  miles,  against  a  rapid  and  dangerous  current,  in  a  small  boat 
propelled  by  setting-poles  only;  and  by  dint  of  great  exertion  and  deter- 


mination  succeeded  in  reaching  that  point  at  about  9^  at  night.  My 
hospital  boat  did  not  get  up  until  next  morning.  At  Cruces,  very  much 
to  my  surprise,  I  found  the  regimental  quartermaster,  about  seventy 
men,  and  all  the  women  and  children.  This  was  Monday  night.  He 
had  been  there  since  Sunday  morning,  and  no  transportation  for  the 
baggage  had  yet  been  furnished  by  the  contractors.  The  detachment 
was  encamped  on  the  river  at  the  landing-place,  and  all  the  baggage 
piled  up  in  the  vicinity.  At  this  time  all  were  well,  and  my  sick  had  en- 
tirely recovered.  Transportation  was  promised  in  the  morning,  and  I 
determined  to  push  on  as  rapidly  as  possible,  to  overtake  the  main 
body,  at  that  time  probably  at  Panama. 

In  the  morning  we  were  again  disappointed  in  transportation.  This 
was  Tuesday,  20th  July.  While  endeavoring  to  get  from  the  contractor 
mules  for  myself  and  necessary  stores,  I  was  called  to  see  a  soldier  said 
to  be  ill  of  cramps.  I  found  a  case  of  malignant  cholera,  of  the  most 
aggravated  character.  The  man  died  in  six  hours.  Upon  instituting 
a  rigid  inquiry,  I  found  that  the  disease  was,  and  had  been  for  some 
time,  prevailing  in  the  town;  that  numbers  had  died,  and  were  still 
dying  there;  and  that  a  physician  had  been  sent  there  from  Panama 
for  the  special  purpose  of  treating  such  cases.  It  was  of  course  impos- 
sible for  me  to  leave  the  detachment  under  such  circumstances.  I, 
therefore,  decided  to  remain  until  the  men  were  all  started,  and  this 
more  especially,  as  I  was  informed  from  day  to  day  by  passengers 
from  Panama  that  the  main  body  had  gone  on  board  the  transport  in 
Panama  bay,  and  that  there  was  no  disease  among  them.  I  thought 
it  but  prudent,  however,  to  urge  the  quartermaster  to  as  speedy  a 
movement  from  the  place  as  possible;  and  by  my  advice  he  determined 
if  the  requisite  transportation  was  not  furnished  by  the  next  morning, 
to  procure  it  himself  of  anybody,  at  any  price,  and  require  the  con- 
tracting parties  to  pay  for  it.  It  must  be  observed  that  a  subcontractor 
had  agreed  to  furnish  mules  for  11  cents  a  pound,  and  all  this  time 
they  were  in  demand  for  private  transportation  at  16  to  20  cents.  We 
had  the  vexation  of  seeing  hundreds  of  citizens  forwarded,  with  scarcely 
an  hour's  detention,  while  our  men  were  kept  at  the  most  unhealthy 
point  of  the  Isthmus  for  five  days,  with  no  adequate  effort  on  the  part 
of  the  contractors  to  forward  us  to  Panama.  The  next  morning  we 
were  no  better  off.  Captain  Grant  then  went  into  the  market,  and 
succeeded  in  completing  a  contract  before  night  with  a  responsible  per- 
son, for  the  requisite  number  of  mules,  to  be  ready  early  the  next  day. 
In  the  meanwhile  several  cases  of  cholera  occurred,  and  we  had  four 
more  deaths.  One  man  convalesced  from  the  disease,  but  too  ill  to 

404  PANAMA 

move,  I  was  obliged  to  leave  him  in  charge  of  the  alcalde  and  the  town 
physician.  I  recommended,  under  the  circumstances,  that  the  whole 
detachment  should  be  furnished  with  mules,  lest  the  fatigue  of  march- 
ing over  so  desperate  a  road  should  excite  the  disease  in  men  predis- 
posed to  it,  and  they  should  perish,  without  the  possibility  of  my  aiding 
them,  on  the  way.  This  was  done,  but  notwithstanding  every  precau- 
tion on  our  part,  three  fatal  cases  did  occur  on  the  road. 

In  compliance  with  Captain  Grant's  contract,  a  large  number  of 
mules,  both  saddle  and  cargo,  were  brought  up  in  the  morning,  and 
despatched  as  fast  as  possible  with  riders  and  burdens,  respectively; 
by  1  p.  m.  about  one-half  our  men  and  nearly  one-half  our  baggage 
were  on  the  road.  The  usual  rain  then  coming  on  operations  were 
necessarily  suspended  for  the  day.  I  must  here  remark  that  the  pre- 
servation of  anything  like  order  or  organization  in  the  forwarding  of 
troops  or  baggage  on  mules  across  the  Isthmus  is  altogether  out  of  the 
question.  The  moment  a  rider  or  a  cargo  is  placed  upon  a  mule's  back 
that  moment  he  must  set  out,  or  the  muleteer  strips  his  mule  and 
carries  him  off.  Our  movement  was,  therefore,  of  necessity,  a  straggling 
one,  each  man  making  his  way  to  Panama  as  he  best  could,  when  once 
mounted.  The  next  morning,  before  10  o'clock,  the  last  of  our  men 
was  on  the  way,  and  most  of  the  remaining  baggage,  and  then  I  set 
out  myself.  I  reached  Panama  before  dark,  but  too  late  to  go  to  the 
ship  that  night.  I  learned  that  she  was  lying  off  Toboga,  12  miles 
down  the  bay;  that  cholera  had  broken  out  on  board  and  carried  off 
a  number  of  men.  A  small  steamer  communicated  with  her  once  a 
day  only,  leaving  Panama  at  5  p.  m.  I  was,  therefore,  detained  at 
Panama  until  that  hour  the  following  day.  Here  I  learned  that  six  of 
the  cabin  passengers  by  the  Ohio  (our  ship)  had  died  in  Panama  of 
cholera  contracted  on  the  Isthmus. 

I  proceeded  to  the  ship  on  the  first  opportunity,  and  there  was  in- 
formed that  the  main  body  had  passed  three  nights  on  the  road  between 
Gorgona  and  Panama  without  shelter;  that  they  were  drenched  by 
the  rains  every  day;  that  the  order  relative  to  fruits  and  drink  had  been 
entirely  disregarded,  and  in  consequence  several  men  had  been  attacked 
by  cholera  and  died  on  the  way.  After  their  arrival  upon  the  ship, 
the  surgeon  of  that  and  of  two  other  ships  of  the  same  line  had  been 
constant  in  their  attendance  upon  the  sick,  and  abundance  of  hospital 
stores  and  medicines  had  been  furnished  by  the  company.  That  day 
(Saturday)  the  sick  had  been  removed  to  a  hulk  anchored  near,  and  a 
detail  of  men  to  nurse  them,  under  the  charge  of  an  officer,  had  been 
seHt  on  board  by  the  commanding  officer.  I  went  on  board  the  hulk 


and  passed  the  night  there.  Several  new  cases  were  sent  on  board 
from  the  ship  during  the  night.  The  next  day,  Dr.  Martin,  of  the 
Columbia,  kindly  volunteered  to  take  my  place,  and  I  got  some  sleep. 
I  passed  the  next  night  again  on  board  the  hulk,  besides  frequent 
visits  during  the  day.  The  next  day  I  was  obliged  to  apply  to  the 
commanding  officer  for  assistance.  It  was  impossible  for  anyone  to 
endure  such  an  amount  of  physical  and  mental  exertion  any  longer. 
We  had,  fortunately,  among  our  passengers,  Dr.  Deal,  of  California, 
a  physician  of  experience  and  intelligence,  with  whom  a  contract  was 
made  to  perform  the  duties  of  an  assistant  surgeon  on  board  the  Golden 
Gate,  from  that  time  until  she  reached  San  Francisco,  for  the  moderate 
sum  of  $250.  Had  we  known  what  was  before  us  we  could  not  have 
secured  his  services  for  ten  times  the  amount. 

Tuesday,  27th  July,  the  disease  was  evidently  subsiding.  No  new 
cases  had  occurred  during  the  night,  and  the  sick  were,  for  the  most 
part,  improving.  I  entertained  strong  hopes  that  as  soon  as  our  baggage 
was  all  received  we  should  be  in  condition  to  prosecute  our  voyage. 
In  this  hope,  however,  we  were  doomed  to  be  disappointed.  In  the 
afternoon  of  that  day  we  had  a  heavy  rain,  against  which  many  of  our 
men  were  but  ill  protected.  Upon  the  arrival  of  the  small  steamer 
in  the  evening  about  a  dozen  knapsacks  were  received,  that  had  been 
lying  and  moulding  somewhere  on  the  Isthmus  for  a  long  time.  The 
men  to  whom  they  belonged  seized  upon  them  immediately  with  great 
eagerness,  and  opened  them  to  get  a  change  of  clothing.  I  was  after- 
wards informed  that  some  of  these  men  fell  sick  while  in  the  act.  Be  this 
as  it  may,  in  about  20  hours  afterwards  they  were  all  taken  ill  of  cholera 
in  its  worst  form  and  within  an  hour  of  each  other,  and  most  of  them 
died.  The  disease  having  thus  reappeared,  it  was  determined  to  land 
the  troops.  There  being  shelter  for  the  sick  upon  the  island  of  Flaminco, 
about  six  miles  from  Panama,  the  debarkation  was  effected  upon  the 
29th;  the  sick  were  placed  in  huts,  and  the  well  in  a  few  tents  and  under 
sails  stretched  over  poles.  On  the  1st  August,  Brevet  Major  Gore  was 
attacked,  and  died  on  board  the  Golden  Gate.  His  was  the  last  case 
of  cholera  that  occurred,  and  he  the  only  officer  we  lost.  I  recommended 
to  Colonel  Bonneville  to  destroy  any  other  knapsacks  that  might  be 
received  from  the  Isthmus,  and  to  have  the  ship  fumigated  with 
chlorine,  which  was  done.  Several  other  officers  were  threatened,  but, 
by  timely  means,  escaped  a  decided  attack.  Upon  the  island  a  number 
of  those  previously  ill  died,  but  no  new  cases  appeared.  The  fever  of 
the  country,  however,  began  to  show  itself,  which  made  all  anxious  to 
leave  Panama  as  soon  as  possible. 

406  PANAMA 

On  the  3d  August,  the  Golden  Gate  determined  to  go  to  sea  the  next 
day,  but  refused  to  take  on  board  more  than  450  of  our  people,  and 
expressly  declared  that  she  would  not  receive  a  single  sick  man.  To 
this  extraordinary  demand  we  were  forced  to  submit,  and  I  was  accord- 
ingly ordered  to  remain  on  the  island  with  the  sick,  most  of  the  women 
and  children,  and  one  company  of  troops  to  act  as  nurses,  etc.,  until 
the  next  steamer  should  sail.  I  approved  of  the  proposal  to  divide  the 
command  between  two  ships,  but  could  not  agree  as  to  the  propriety 
of  leaving  all  the  sick  for  another  steamer,  as  a  similar  objection  would 
probably  be  made  to  their  reception  on  board  of  her.  I  was,  however, 
overruled,  and  on  the  4th  August,  the  Golden  Gate  sailed  with  450  well 
men,  Dr.  Deal  acting  assistant  surgeon.  The  three  months'  supply 
for  the  regiment  being  stowed  away  in  the  hold  of  the  ship,  I  placed  it 
in  charge  of  Dr.  Deal,  with  the  packer's  list,  that  he  might  use  such  of 
the  medicines  and  store  that  he  should  need  on  the  voyage;  the  re- 
mainder to  be  left  with  the  medical  purveyor  at  Benicia.  Dr.  Deal 
was  discharged  at  the  termination  of  the  voyage,  and  I  have  not  seen 
him  since,  nor  have  I  had  any  report  from  him.  I  have  ascertained, 
however,  that  he  had  ninety  cases  of  fever  and  diarrhoea  on  the  voyage, 
and  three  deaths.  These  are  embodied  in  my  report.  I  have  also 
learned  that,  not  being  able  to  find  the  box  containing  the  sulphate 
of  quinine,  he  had  purchased  two  ounces  at  Acapulco  and  borrowed 
more  of  the  ship,  which  has  since  been  returned. 

Upon  the  7th  of  August  it  was  announced  that  the  steamer  North- 
erner would  take  us  on  board  and  sail  the  next  day.  The  surgeon  of 
that  ship  was  sent  on  shore  to  inspect  our  men;  and  although  he 
thought  there  were  several  cases  of  fever  that  would  die,  still,  as  no 
infectious  disease  was  prevailing,  he  made  no  objection  to  receiving 
them  on  board.  Arrangements  were  accordingly  made  for  embarking. 
The  sick  were  to  be  first  sent  on  board  and  accommodated  before  the 
ship  should  be  crowded  with  the  well.  By  a  mistake  of  the  agent  a 
scow  was  sent  to  the  island  this  evening  to  take  us  on  board.  In  this 
scow  our  baggage  was  first  stowed,  and  the  sick  placed  upon  it.  In 
a  few  minutes  the  whole  was  flooded  away,  owing  to  the  leaky  condition 
of  the  scow.  Our  sick  and  baggage  were  hastily  transferred  to  boats 
alongside,  and  thus  sent  to  the  steamer.  It  was  this  accident  that 
caused  the  damage  to  the  instruments  that  were  afterwards  con- 
demned by  a  board  of  survey. 

It  happened  afterwards  that  it  was  not  intended  we  should  be  em- 
barked that  evening,  and  the  consequence  of  the  blunder  was  a  remon- 
strance on  the  part  of  the  other  passengers  against  our  sick  being  per- 


mitted  to  remain  on  board.  After  a  great  deal  of  negotiation  it  was  finally 
agreed  that  a  few  of  the  worst  cases  might  be  left  in  hospital  at  Taboga, 
under  the  special  charge  of  the  agent  of  the  company,  he  guaranteeing 
that  every  comfort  and  suitable  medical  attendance  should  be  provided 
for  them,  and  they  forwarded  as  soon  as  possible.  I  considered  it  of 
the  greatest  importance  that  we  should  leave  that  climate,  as  our  well 
men  were  daily  sickening  with  the  fever.  Accordingly  four  men  were 
selected  to  be  left,  by  the  ship's  surgeon,  which  satisfied  the  passengers, 
and  on  the  8th  of  August  we  embarked  the  remainder  and  put  to  sea. 

We  arrived  at  Benicia  on  the  26th  of  August,  having  lost  but  one 
man  on  the  voyage.  He  died  of  the  secondary  fever  of  cholera.  Upon 
my  arrival  at  Benicia  I  found  a  large  sick  report  from  among  the  men 
shipped  on  the  Golden  Gate.  They  were  ill  of  diarrhoea,  dysentery,  and 
typhoid  fever.  The  men  were  destitute  of  clothing,  and  were  in  tents, 
exposed  to  intense  heat  by  day  and  to  very  cold  nights.  By  the  advice 
of  Assistant  Surgeon  Griffin  they  were  ordered  from  the  tents  into  some 
new  cavalry  stables  just  finished,  and  with  marked  good  effect.  The 
character  of  the  fever  was  decidedly  typhoid,  and  the  dysenteries 
generally  assumed  the  same  type. 

With  regard  to  the  treatment  of  the  cholera  as  it  prevailed  among  us, 
I  have  only  to  say  that  all  the  usual  means  were  tried,  and  with  the 
usual  want  of  success.  The  first  cases  were  nearly  all  fatal.  I  think  the 
free  exhibition  of  brandy  with  capsicum  and  chloride  sodium  was 
about  as  successful  as  anything.  We  found  the  acetas  plumbi,  in 
doses  of  five  to  ten  grains,  a  valuable  means  of  restraining  the  diar- 
rhoea. I  feel  sure  many  cases  were  relieved  by  it  that  would  have  term- 
inated in  malignant  cholera  without  speedy  relief.  Mustard  and 
bottles  of  hot  water  with  frictions  of  the  surface  externally,  camphor, 
calomel,  and  quinine  internally,  were  freely  used.  But,  as  I  have  al- 
ready remarked,  and  as  usually  happens  in  severe  epidemics,  the  chances 
are  that  the  cases  first  attacked  will  die  and  that  the  ratio  of  the 
mortality  will  diminish  with  the  duration  of  the  epidemic.  In  this  epi- 
demic we  lost  about  eighty  men. 

Very  respectfully,  your  obd't  serv't, 


BRIGADIER-GENERAL  LAWSON,  Surgeon,  U.  S.  Army. 

Surgeon-General,  Washington,  D.  C. 

Another  account  by  an  English  traveller,  Charles  T.  Bid- 
well,  of  a  crossing  a  year  later,  is  also  interesting: 

408  PANAMA 

"That  the  traveller  may  form  some  idea  of  the  previous 
difficulties  of  the  transit  across  the  Isthmus,  I  may  give  my 
own  experience  of  it,  no  later  back  than  the  year  1853. 
I  extract  this  from  my  journal,  written  at  that  time,  and  I 
wrote  then,  as  I  do  now,  without  exaggeration.  The  travel- 
ler who  finds  himself  comfortably  carried  across  the  Isthmus 
in  a  comparatively  cool  railway  carriage,  will  hardly  be  able 
to  form  an  idea  of  the  fatigue,  annoyance,  and  expense  of 
crossing  in  'old  times';  and,  as  I  have  said,  the  account  of 
my  experiences  is  no  exaggerated  account  of  what  had  to 
be  undergone  by  passengers  even  ten  or  twelve  years  ago. 
Yet  even  then  thousands  of  men,  aye,  and  delicate  women 
and  young  children,  were  exposed  to  the  dangers  of  the 
Isthmus  transit. 

"We  anchored  in  Navy  or  Limon  Bay,  at  Colon,  alias 
Aspinwall,  and  at  all  events  the  Atlantic  port  of  the  Isthmus 
of  Panamd,  and  our  port  of  disembarkation.  After  a  very 
early  and  hurried  breakfast  we  left  the  good  ship,  which  had 
brought  us  thus  far  safely,  for  the  miserable  town  now  rising 
out  of  a  swamp,  and  struggling  for  a  new  name;  a  place, 
however,  of  growing  importance,  in  consequence  of  the  rapidly 
increasing  traffic  across  the  Isthmus  of  Panama".  It  is,  and 
is  to  be,  the  Atlantic  terminus  of  the  railway  now  being 
constructed,  and  at  present  it  supports  three  or  four  so-called 
hotels,  while  buildings  as  ostentatious  as  painted  wood  and 
large  sign-boards  can  make  them,  are  fast  appearing  in  what 
a  few  months  ago  was  an  almost  uninhabitable  swampy 

"We  found  here,  too,  a  British  vice-counsel,  who  had 
removed  from  the  old  port  of  Chagres,  and  who  had  his 
office  on  the  top  of  one  of  the  several  'medical  stores/ 
which  the  unhealthy  climate  and  bad  liquors  of  the  'drink- 
ing saloons'  doubtless  lucratively  supported.  Here,  too, 
we  began  to  learn  the  value  of  a  dollar,  and  the  free  Jamaica 


negroes'  estimate  of  service  equivalent  to  that  coin;  indeed 
everything,  as  may  be  supposed,  is  enormously  dear,  and  a 
great  many  shillings  have  to  be  expended  before  one  gets 
one's  luggage  removed  from  the  landing  to  the  railway  car, 
a  distance  of  a  few  yards.  .  .  . 

"We  had  the  privilege  to  leave  this  unattractive  spot  by 
a  train  at  nine  A.M.,  and  after  frequent  stopping  to  take  in 
supplies  of  wood,  that  being  the  fuel  consumed,  we  arrived 
at  Barbacoas  at  about  noon.  .  .  . 

"The  distance  from  Colon  to  Barbacoas  is  23J^  miles, 
and  the  railway  fare  is  eight  dollars  (£1.  12s.),  with  an  extra 
charge  for  luggage. 

"At  Barbacoas  we  made  up  a  party  of  fourteen,  including 
some  ladies;  and  hired  a  canoe  to  convey  us  to  Gorgona,  on 
the  Chagres  River,  and  our  next  stage;  for  this  we  paid  four 
dollars  (16s.)  each  person,  and  after  an  attempt  at  refresh- 
ments, which  cost  another  dollar,  and  paying  'just  one 
more  dollar '  to  have  our  luggage  put  into  the  boat  (although 
we  had  previously  paid  to  have  it  brought  from  the  train  to 
the  water's  edge),  we  started  on  our  trip.  We  were  poled 
along  the  river  by  five  native  boatmen,  whose  dress  was  of 
that  light  description  which  approaches  to  'airy  nothing.' 
The  men,  however,  worked  well,  refreshing  themselves  now 
and  then  by  floundering  into  the  bright  stream,  returning 
to  their  work  without  the  preliminary  of  towels.  We  were 
fortunate  in  having  for  our  journey  a  lovely  day,  and  a  good- 
sized,  tolerably  comfortable  boat,  which  was  nicely  shaded 
from  the  sun  by  awnings  and  curtains;  so  the  afternoon  was 
spent  pleasantly  enough;  now  in  concocting  and  drinking 
refreshing  beverages,  under  the  direction  of  an  Italian  lady, 
a  great  hand  at  that  art;  now  in  trying  our  pistols  at  the 
wild  turkey  and  water-fowl  that  presented  itself.  The 
Chagres  River,  as  far  as  we  traversed  it,  was  interesting  and 
pretty.  The  stream  was  brisk  and  clear,  and  was  shaded 

410  PANAMA 

nearly  the  whole  way  by  the  luxuriant  trees  and  pretty 
orchids  of  the  tropics,  and  we  happily  escaped  with  only 
one  or  two  smart  showers  during  the  trip. 

"We  arrived  at  Gorgona,  a  small  native  village,  about 
thirty-five  miles  from  the  Atlantic,  between  five  and  six  in 
the  evening,  and  as  it  was  then  too  late  to  go  on  to  Cruces 
by  boat,  we  were  compelled  to  make  up  our  minds,  and,  as 
it  turned  out,  our  beds  too,  to  spend  the  night  at  Gorgona. 
Here  four  or  five  wooden  houses,  bearing  large  sign-boards, 
offering  hospitality  and  accommodation  to  travellers,  strug- 
gled for  our  patronage,  but,  as  we  afterwards  found,  this 
accommodation  extended  little  beyond  the  outside  declara- 
tion; indeed,  a  more  dirty,  disagreeable,  uncomfortable 
place  to  pass  a  night  in  would  with  difficulty  be  found  in 
the  highway  of  modern  travel. 

"We  selected,  'faute  de  mieux,'  the  Union  Hotel,  and 
after  paying  more  dollars  to  have  our  luggage  conveyed  from 
the  boat  thither,  we  sat  down  with  ravenous  appetites  to 
doubtful  eggs,  the  hardest  of  hard  Yankee  ham,  rice,  and 
preserved  cranberries;  and  from  all  such  fare  may  I  be  pre- 
served in  future!  Hunger,  however,  knows  no  laws.  We 
had  not  made  a  regular  or  an  eatable  meal  since  our  last 
dinner  on  board  the  West  India  steamer,  so  this  fare,  bad  as 
it  was,  was  acceptable.  The  place  contained  a  few  stores 
and  more  drinking  '  saloons/  which  were  principally  kept  by 
the  'enterprising  Yankee.'  The  Gorgona  road  to  Panamd 
was  just  then  open,  it  being  passable  only  in  the  dry  season, 
and  it  was  estimated  that  two  thousand  persons  had  passed 
through  this  place  during  the  last  week  on  their  way  to  or 
from  California.  I  noticed  here  one  sign-board,  the  posi- 
tion of  which  struck  me  as  peculiarly  a  propos  to  the  true 
state  of  things;  it  was  that  of  the  Traveller's  Home,'  and 
either  by  accident  or  design,  the  board  was  hanging  upside 
down!  After  our  meal,  we  took  a  stroll  over  the  village  to 


arrange  the  preliminaries  for  our  departure  in  the  morning, 
and  one  of  my  companions,  an  officer  in  the  navy,  who  was 
proceeding  to  the  Pacific  to  join  his  ship,  found  that  a  new 
trunk  which  he  had  brought  from  England  was  too  large  to 
be  conveyed  by  mule  to  Panama.  It  had  cost  him  £5  in 
London,  and  seven  dollars  (£1.  8s.)  to  get  it  thus  far  on  the 
road;  but  there  was  no  help  for  it,  he  had  to  sell  it  here  for 
four  dollars  (16s.),  and  pay  a  dollar  more  for  a  packing-needle 
to  sew  his  traps  up  in  blankets,  which  blankets  cost  some 
dollars  more. 

"We  decided  to  take  the  Gorgona  road,  and  arranged  to 
have  saddle  mules  ready  early  in  the  morning,  to  convey 
us  to  Panama  for  20  dollars  (£4)  each,  and  to  pay  16J/2  cents, 
or  9d.  a  pound  additional,  for  the  conveyance  of  our  luggage. 
Having  settled  these  important  details,  paid  down  the  cash, 
and  given  up  our  luggage,  except  that  which  could  be  strung 
to  our  saddles,  we  went  to  inspect  a  'free  ball,'  which  had 
been  got  up  with  all  available  splendour  in  celebration  of 
some  feast,  and  here  we  had  a  rare  opportunity  of  seeing 
assembled  many  shades  of  colour  in  the  human  face  divine; 
a  gorgeous  display  of  native  jewellery,  and  not  the  most 
happy  mixture  of  bright  colours  in  the  toilettes  of  those 
who  claimed  to  be  the  'fair  sex.'  Dancing,  however,  and 
drinking,  too,  seemed  to  be  kept  up  with  no  lack  of  spirit 
and  energy,  to  the  inharmonious  combination  of  a  fiddle 
and  a  drum;  and  those  of  the  assembly  whose  tastes  led 
them  to  quieter  pursuits,  had  the  opportunity  of  losing  at 
adjoining  gambling-tables  the  dollars  they  had  so  easily  and 
quickly  extracted  from  the  travellers  who  had  had  occasion 
to  avail  themselves  of  their  services.  These  tables,  too,  were 
kept  by  the  'enterprising  Yankee.'  Having  seen  all  this, 
and  smoked  out  our  cigars,  we  sought  our  beds,  when  we 
found  for  each  a  shelf  or  'bunk'  in  a  room  which  our  host 
boasted  had,  at  a  push,  contained  twenty-five  or  thirty  per- 

412  PANAMA 

sons.  We  luckily  were  fewer,  and  the  fatigue  of  our  journey 
sent  '  soft  slumbers '  to  aid  us  to  forget  our  present  cares  and 
wants,  and  prepare  us  for  the  morrow. 

"On  awaking  at  daylight,  I  found  a  basin  and  a  pail  of 
water  set  out  in  the  open  air  on  an  old  piano-forte,  which 
some  rash  traveller  had  probably  been  tempted  to  bring 
thus  far  on  the  road,  and,  as  its  interior  would  not  con- 
veniently sew  up  in  blankets,  like  the  contents  of  my  friend 
R.  N.'s  trunk,  it  had  become  so  far  reduced  in  circumstances 
as  to  serve  as  our  wash-hand  stand.  I  at  once  proceeded  to 
make  a  most  refreshing  open-air  toilette,  and  after  a  break- 
fast of  the  same  nature  as  our  supper,  we  mounted  our  mules 
for  our  onward  journey. 

"It  was  a  strange  scene,  that  starting  from  Gorgona,  and 
reminded  me  of  the  famous  start  of  good  John  Gilpin.  But 
there  was  no  fear  of  our  steeds  bolting  with  us.  They  had 
only  arrived  from  Panamd  the  night  before,  and  any  animal 
less  stupid  than  a  mule  would  have  flatly  refused  the  journey 
now.  For  us,  'necessitas  non  habet  legem.'  And  all  honour 
must  be  given  to  the  Isthmus  mules,  notwithstanding  their 
stupidity,  for  the  good  service  these  hard-working,  sure- 
footed animals  did,  in  days  gone  by,  and  did  then,  under  bad 
food  and  worse  treatment. 

"Our  party  was  now  broken  up,  and  with  only  six  01  my 
old  companions,  a  small  despatch-case,  a  bag,  and  a  soda- 
water  bottle  of  brandy  tied  to  the  saddle,  I  bade  farewell  to 
the  shades  of  Gorgona,  at  seven  A.M.  The  brandy  was  the 
last  of  the  good  things  of  the  ship,  and  the  only  provision 
which  I  was  induced  to  take,  although  in  those  days  the 
West  India  steamers  provided  pic-nic  packages  for  the 
Isthmus  travellers. 

"We  had  not  proceeded  more  than  a  mile  on  our  road 
before  we  overtook  an  Italian  of  our  yesterday's  party,  with 
his  wife  and  daughter,  all  walking;  the  two  latter  being 


afraid  to  ride  the  mules  they  had  hired,  and  which  followed 
them,  led  by  the  guides. 

"The  road,  a  narrow  bridle-path  through  the  forest,  was 
bad  beyond  description;  in  many  places  the  mud  was  so 
deep  that  it  covered  the  legs  of  both  mule  and  rider,  while 
those  who  were  not  thrown  off  into  it,  were  frequently 
obliged  to  unseat  themselves  to  allow  the  animal  to  get  out 
of  it.  The  weather  was  excessively  hot,  although  we  had 
several  heavy  showers  of  rain  during  the  day,  and  we  could 
seldom  get  our  mules  out  of  a  slow  walk;  for  even  those  who 
were  most  successful  were  obliged  to  stop  for  some  of  the 
party  lagging  behind,  hence  the  ride  was  toilsome  and  tire- 
some in  the  extreme. 

"One  old  Englishman  of  our  party  who  was  very  stout, 
and,  consequently,  very  heavy,  was  continually  either 
throwing  his  unfortunate  animal  down  or  falling  off  himself, 
so  that  it  was  utterly  impossible  to  get  on  with  anything 
like  speed ;  and  not  to  mend  matters,  towards  the  afternoon 
an  irascible  gentleman  lost  a  bag  from  his  saddle,  containing, 
among  other  valuables,  his  letters  of  credit;  and  when,  after 
a  long  search,  the  bag  was  found  by  a  native  (who  was 
rewarded  by  a  couple  of  dollars),  the  important  papers  were 
missing.  This  very  nearly  led  to  a  'row/  for  pistols  and 
bowie-knives  were  produced;  but  as  the  missing  papers 
actually  turned  up  afterwards,  it  was  only  another  cause  of 
delay.  But  after  more  or  less  interruption,  we  at  last 
arrived  at  a  hut  called  the  'True-half-way-house,'  and  it 
being  then  six  o'clock,  we  were  obliged  to  halt  for  the  night, 
giving  our  mules  in  charge  of  two  guides  who  had  accom- 
panied us. 

Again  we  sat  down  to  supper,  tired,  hungry  and  dirty; 
and  again  hard  ham,  bad  eggs,  and  cranberries.  The 
'house,'  as  it  was  called,  had  been  newly  built,  having  for 
walls  nothing  but  fir  poles  about  three  inches  apart,  and  for 

414  PANAMA 

a  roof  out-stretched  canvas.  The  establishment  comprised 
an  Irishman,  a  Frenchman,  and  two  Americans.  There 
were  several  pigs,  too,  running  about,  and  one  fine  turkey, 
but  no  other  hut  or  habitation  near.  One  of  my  compan- 
ions, a  German,  caused  much  amusement  by  asking  for  a 
boot-jack,  and  aspiring  to  have  his  muddy  boots  cleaned. 
Being  tired  and  stiff  from  sitting  all  day  in  the  saddle,  I 
smoked  my  dear  Havana  and  turned  again  into  a  bunk, 
where  I  soon  fell  asleep  and  became  food  for  mosquitoes. 
I  awoke  at  day-break,  and  arousing  our  landlord,  who  slept 
above  me,  and  my  German  friend,  who,  after  having  bathed 
his  body  in  a  pie-dish  of  brandy,  had  reposed  below  me,  we 
soon  got  ready  for  breakfast,  and  got  breakfast  ready  for 
us.  Oh!  for  the  Gorgona  pail  of  water  and  pianoforte! 
Alas,  I  was  only  allowed  to  dash  a  teacupful  of  water  in  my 
poor  mosquito-bitten  face,  for  water  here  was  a  luxury.  As 
the  coffee  and  tea  were  kept  in  saucepans  on  the  fire  during 
the  night,  we  had  not  long  to  wait  for  our  meal;  again  hard 
ham,  hard  biscuit,  and  by  way  of  change,  onions  and 
treacle!  Having  paid  for  this  'accommodation'  two  and  a 
half  dollars  (10s.),  we  started  in  search  of  our  mules,  which 
we  had  been  compelled  to  pay  for  before  hand,  and  found  to 
our  dismay  that  the  guides  had  made  off  with  them  during 
the  night.  Nothing  then  remained  for  it  but  to  walk  the 
rest  of  the  distance  to  Panamd  in  about  twelve  miles  of  mud, 
and  what  was  even  less  agreeable,  carry  those  of  our  traps 
which  we  had  brought  with  us. 

"It  was  about  half-past  six  o'clock  when  we  left  the 
'True-half-way-house,'  which  we  afterwards  learned  was 
one  mile  nearer  to  Panama  than  half-way  from  Gorgona. 
The  road,  although  very  rough  and  bad,  was  a  vast  im- 
provement upon  that  we  had  traversed  on  the  previous  day; 
but  the  morning  sun  was  extremely  hot,  and  the  heat  of  the 
whole  day  excessive.  We  took  off  our  coats,  rolled  them 


into  bundles,  and  strung  them  with  our  traps  across  our 
shoulders,  and  so  marched  on  to  Panama,  arriving  there 
about  one  in  the  afternoon. 

"Never  in  my  life  had  I  been  in  such  a  mess!  After  a 
glorious  wash  I  at  once  went  to  bed,  sending  the  servant  to 
purchase  for  me  a  clean  ready-made  suit  from  head  to  foot, 
for  our  luggage  had  not  yet  arrived.  Nor  did  it  arrive 
until  two  days  after  us.  This  delay  in  the  arrival  of  one's 
luggage  was,  I  learned,  of  frequent  occurrence;  and  the 
people  at  the  hotel  told  me,  quite  a  matter  of  course,  that  I 
had  better  buy  what  I  required  for  the  present.  It  was 
more  by  good  luck  than  anything  else  that  I  was  enabled  to 
do  so,  for  I  had  spent  in  crossing  all  the  loose  cash  I  had  set 
apart  for  the  Isthmus  transit,  and  my  letters  of  credit  were 
on  Lima.  Those  who  like  myself  were  out  of  cash,  and  not 
so  fortunate  as  to  find  friends  at  Panama,  remained  in  bed 
until  their  clothes  were  dry. 

"In  those  days  the  gold  fever  had  reached  even  Panamd. 
Everybody  tried  to  make  money,  and  many  indeed  made 
fortunes.  I  remember  finding  at  the  hotel  several  Ameri- 
can ladies,  who  occupied  the  time  they  were  detained  for 
their  ship  by  making  dresses  for  women  and  children  com- 
ing from  Colon,  who  were  sure  to  arrive  without  their  lug- 
gage. These  dresses  were  easily  sold  for  large  sums.  .  .  . 

"From  the  foregoing  it  will  be  seen  that  the  distance  to 
be  traversed,  whether  from  Chagres  to  Panamd,  or  from 
Colon  to  Panama,  was,  after  all,  trifling;  but  there  appears 
to  have  been  an  utter  want  of  provision  for  the  requirements 
of  the  travellers,  who,  as  I  have  said  before,  arrived  by  hun- 
dreds. The  old  road  of  the  time  of  the  Spaniards  seems  to 
have  been  allowed  to  fall  into  the  most  complete  disorder, 
and  to  render  difficulties  more  difficult.  The  mules  were 
often  insufficient  in  number  to  meet  the  demands  of  the 
passengers  and  their  luggage,  and  when  to  be  obtained  they 

416  PANAMA 

had  frequently  been  overworked,  and  were  unfit  to  make  the 
trip.  Provisions,  as  shown,  were  difficult  to  procure,  and, 
when  procured,  very  bad  in  quality,  while  the  other  abso- 
lute necessities,  such  as  change  of  clothing  and  proper 
sleeping-places,  after  a  day's  exposure  to  a  broiling  sun  and 
heavy  rain,  it  was  impossible  to  procure  at  any  price.  V/as 
it  any  wonder,  then,  that  people  unaccustomed  to  such  hard- 
ships fell  victims  to  them,  and  that  Panamd,  became  best 
known  in  those  days  as  the  seat  of  a  malignant  fever,  often 
fatal  to  the  European?  .  .  . 

"In  these  earlier  days  of  Isthmus  travel,  the  now  almost 
abandoned  hotels  of  Panamd  were  quite  insufficient  to 
accommodate  the  hordes  from  the  United  States,  who  were 
attracted  to  California  by  the  gold  discoveries,  although 
four  or  five  beds  were  placed  in  each  room,  and  often  two 
persons  in  each  bed.  Lodgings  were  gladly  taken  in  even  the 
most  miserable  rooms,  and  with  the  most  wretched  accommo- 
dation, while  passengers  often  encamped  in  the  open  streets 
and  squares  of  the  city.  The  old  city  was  literally  astounded 
by  the  influx  of  noisy  Yankees  who  paraded  the  town,  armed 
with  bowie-knives  and  revolvers,  which  were  from  time  to 
time  made  use  of  in  the  excitement  caused  by  gambling  and 
the  liquor  of  the  impromptu  drinking-saloons.  From  these 
earlier  emigrants,  and  from  such  men  as  accompanied  Walker 
in  Nicaragua,  the  South  Americans  derived  their  first  knowl- 
edge of  the  American  of  the  northern  States.  The  impres- 
sion created  was  far  from  favorable.  Emigrants  who  had  no 
thought  about  the  Isthmus  but  an  impatient  desire  to  get 
away  from  it  appeared  to  the  Panamefios  like  invaders,  who 
were  only  waiting  for  an  opportunity  to  seize  the  town,  or 
who  had  already  taken  possession  of  it.  ... 

"In  April,  1856,  a  fracas  occurred  between  the  natives 
and  passengers,  arising  out  of  a  dispute  about  some  fruit, 
which  has  since  been  known  as  the  'Panamd  Massacre.' 


The  knives  of  the  natives  and  the  revolvers  of  the  Yankees 
were  alike  called  into  play.  The  contempt  of  the  Americans 
for  the  blacks  of  Panamd,  and  the  dislike  and  fear  of  the 
natives  of  the  Americans,  but  too  readily  kindled  the  spark 
into  a  flame.  The  bewildered  governor  ordered  his  ragged 
soldiers  to  fire  upon  the  passengers,  and  several  innocent 
lives  were  sacrificed  and  much  property  destroyed  before 
this  lamentable  affair  ended.  This  was  but  the  explosion  of 
antipathies  and  jealousies  long  pent  up.  .  .  . 

"Among  the  temporary  settlers  on  the  Isthmus,  who  were 
attracted  by  the  hope  of  making  a  rapid  fortune  out  of  the 
by-passers,  were  many  Americans,  who  had  earned  titles 
in  the  war  in  Texas;  almost  every  American  was  a  colonel 
or  captain.  Funny  stories  are  told  of  two  brothers  who  set 
up  an  hotel  in  Panama;  one  was  a  major,  and  the  other  a 
colonel.  A  companion  of  mine  went  to  the  hotel  upon  one 

occasion  to  engage  beds,  and  asked  to  see  Mr.  ,  the 

proprietor:  'Which  one  do  you  want,  sar?'  inquired  the 
negro  servant.  'Well,  I  don't  know/  my  companion  replied; 
'  I  merely  meant  to  engage  beds  for  some  passengers  who  are 
expected  to-morrow.'  'Oh,  then  it's  the  major  you  want,' 
replied  the  servant;  'the  colonel  attends  to  the  bar — the 
major  to  the  bedrooms.'" 



THE  gold  rush  of  '49  re-established  the  Isthmus  as  a  place 
of  world-interest.  It  was  no  longer  the  forgotten  province 
of  a  mis-governed  federation.  The  days  had  passed  when 
the  inhabitants  could  cut  each  other's  throats  without 
attracting  attention.  The  world  had  need  of  Panama,  once 
more,  as  a  traffic  route. 

The  building  of  the  Panama  railroad  was  a  token  of  the 
new  times.  It  was  one  of  the  most  creditable  operations 
which  we  of  the  North  have  undertaken  in  the  South.  It 
was  a  new  kind  of  bravery  which  these  Gringos  brought  to 
Latin  America  when,  in  the  year  1850,  they  waded  into  the 
jungle-swamp  with  their  transits  and  axes.  It  was  five  years 
later,  July  27th,  1855,  when  the  first  locomotive  crossed  from 
ocean  to  ocean.  About  eight  miles  of  track  a  year.  Five 
years  of  as  bitter  hardship  as  that  of  any  Polar  expedition. 

The  history  of  the  Panama  railroad  really  begins  before 
the  discovery  of  gold  in  California.  As  early  as  1848,  W.  H. 
Aspinwall,  Henry  Chauncey  and  John  L.  Stevens  had  peti- 
tioned the  government  of  New  Granada  for  a  concession 
under  which  they  and  their  associates  might  construct  a 
railroad  across  the  Isthmus,  from  some  point  on  the  Carib- 
bean to  the  ancient  city  of  Panama  on  the  Pacific. 

But  it  is  extremely  doubtful  whether  they  could  have 
raised  the  necessary  capital  if  the  gold  rush  had  not  focused 
public  attention  on  the  little  strip  of  land  between  the 




Early  in  1850,  J.  L.  Stevens  went  to  Bogota,  and  in 
April  of  that  year  the  concession  for  the  Panama  railroad 
was  signed. 

There  was  some  discussion  about  where  to  locate  the 
Atlantic  terminus.  The  first  intention  seems  to  have  been 
to  start  from  the  commodious  harbor  which  Columbus,  when 
he  had  visited  the  coast  three  hundred  and  fifty  years  before, 
had  named  Puerto  Bello.  Mr.  Tracy  Robinson,  in  his 
memoirs  of  Isthmian  life,  says  that  "if  tradition  may  be 
trusted,"  this  plan  was  abandoned  because  a  New  York 
speculator  had  bought  up  all  the  land  about  the  harbor  and 
held  it  at  an  exorbitant  figure.  Whatever  the  reason  for 
the  change,  it  was  decidedly  to  the  advantage  of  the  canal 
builders,  who  came  later,  that  Navy  Bay  was  chosen  instead. 

Work  began  in  May,  1850.  "The  Illustrated  History  of 
the  Panama  Railroad,"  by  Fessenden  Nott  Otis,  describes 
the  start  in  rather  flowery  periods: 

"Messrs.  Troutwine  and  Baldwin  struck  the  first  blow 
upon  this  great  work.  No  imposing  ceremonies  inaugu- 
rated the  'breaking  ground.'  Two  American  citizens,  leap- 
ing, axe  in  hand,  from  a  native  canoe  upon  a  wild  and  deso- 
late island,  their  retinue  consisting  of  half  a  dozen  Indians, 
who  clear  the  path  with  rude  knives,  strike  their  glittering 
axes  into  the  nearest  tree;  the  rapid  blows  reverberate  from 
shore  to  shore,  and  the  stately  cocoa  crashes  upon  the  beach. 
Thus  unostentatiously  was  announced  the  commencement  of 
a  railway,  which,  from  the  interests  and  difficulties  involved, 
might  well  be  looked  upon  as  one  of  the  grandest  and  boldest 
enterprises  ever  attempted." 

A  few  pages  further  on,  Mr.  Otis's  style  becomes  a  bit 
less  ornate: 

"The  island  was  still  uninhabitable  (their  base  of  action 
was  Manzanillo  island,  the  site  of  the  present  city  of  Colon, 
A.E.),  and  the  whole  party  were  forced  to  live  on  board  the 

420  PANAMA 

brig,  which  was  crowded  to  its  utmost  capacity.  Here  they 
were  by  no  means  exempt  from  the  causes  which  deterred 
them  from  living  on  shore,  for  below  decks  the  vessel  was 
alive  with  mosquitoes  and  sand  flies,  which  were  a  source  of 
such  annoyance  and  suffering  that  almost  all  preferred  to 
sleep  upon  the  deck,  exposed  to  drenching  rains,  rather  than 
endure  their  attacks.  In  addition  to  this,  most  of  their 
number  were  kept  nauseated  by  the  ceaseless  motion  of  the 
vessel.  Labor  and  malarious  influences  during  the  day, 
exposure  and  unrest  at  night,  soon  told  upon  their  health, 
and  in  a  short  time  more  than  half  were  attacked  with 
malarious  fever.  Having  neither  a  physician  nor  any  com- 
fortable place  of  rest,  their  sufferings  were  severe." 

On  the  preliminary  survey,  it  was  sometimes  necessary  for 
the  men  to  carry  their  lunches  tied  to  their  head  and  to  eat 
them,  standing  waist-deep  in  the  water  of  the  swamp. 

Mr.  Otis's  "Illustrated  History"  was  published  on  behalf 
of  the  company  and,  being  in  the  nature  of  a  prospectus, 
dismisses  the  "diseases"  these  pioneers  had  to  face,  as  lightly 
as  possible.  But  there  are  many  contemporaneous  records, 
however,  which  give  more  vivid  pictures  of  the  Black  Death 
which  struck  down  the  men  of  the  railroad.  I  have  chosen 
the  following  passages  from  Tomes'  "Panama  in  1855,"  be- 
cause, as  he  was  a  guest  of  the  railroad  at  the  time  of  the 
formal  opening,  he  is  little  likely  to  have  maliciously  exag- 
gerated the  dangers  of  the  Isthmus. 

"The  unhealthiness  of  the  climate  has  been  one  of  the 
most  serious  obstacles  against  which  the  enterprise  has 
struggled.  I  need  not  dwell  upon  the  causes  which  produce 
those  diseases.  The  alternation  of  the  wet  and  dry  season, 
a  perpetual  summer-heat,  and  the  decomposition  of  the 
profuse  tropical  vegetation,  must  of  course  generate  an  in- 
tense miasmatic  poison,  and  I  was  not  surprised  when  the 
oldest  and  most  experienced  of  the  physicians  employed  on 


the  railroad,  declared  to  me  that  no  one,  of  whatever  race 
or  country,  who  becomes  a  resident  of  the  Isthmus,  escapes 

"  I  am  indebted  to  the  same  gentleman  just  mentioned  for 
some  interesting  facts.  From  him  I  learned  that  those  who 
were  exposed  to  the  miasmatic  poison  of  the  country  were 
generally  taken  ill  in  four  or  five  weeks,  although  sometimes, 
but  rarely,  not  for  four  or  five  months  after  exposure.  That 
the  first  attack  was  generally  severe;  and  took  the  form  of 
yellow  or  bilious  remittent,  or  malignant  intermittent  fever. 
That  although  none  were  exempt,  the  miasmatic  poison 
affected  the  various  races  with  different  degrees  of  rapidity. 
That  the  African  resisted  the  longest,  next  the  cooly, 
then  the  European,  and  last  in  order  the  Chinese,  who  gave 
in  at  once.  The  rate  of  mortality,  I  was  informed,  was,  for 
the  natives  of  all  races,  one  in  fifty;  the  coolies,  one  in 
forty;  the  negroes  (foreign),  one  in  forty;  the  Europeans,  one 
in  thirty;  and  the  Chinese,  one  in  ten.  ...  I  never 
met  with  a  wholesome  looking  person  among  all  those 
engaged  upon  the  railroad.  There  was  not  one  whose 
constitution  had  not  been  sapped  by  disease,  and  all,  with- 
out exception,  are  in  the  almost  daily  habit  of  taking 
medicine  to  drive  away  the  ever-recurring  fever  and 

"The  railroad  company  are  so  far  conscious  of  the  debil- 
ity engendered  by  a  residence  on  the  Isthmus,  that  they 
refuse  to  employ  those  laborers  who,  having  gone  to  a 
healthier  climate  to  recruit,  return  to  seek  employment. 
It  is  found  that  such  are  unprofitable  servants,  and  yield 
at  once  to  the  enervating  and  sickening  climate.  The  en- 
terprise requires  all  the  vigor  of  unweakened  sinews,  and 
of  pure,  wholesome  blood. 

"A  terrible  fatality  attended  the  efforts  of  the  Railroad 
Company  to  avail  themselves  of  the  assistance  of  Chinese 

422  PANAMA 

laborers.  A  ship  arrived,  and  landed  on  the  Isthmus  some 
eight  hundred,  after  a  fair  voyage  from  Hong  Kong,  where 
these  poor  devils  of  the  flowery  kingdom  had  unwittingly 
sold  themselves  to  the  service  of  the  railroad,  perfectly 
ignorant  of  the  country  whither  they  were  going,  and  of 
the  trials  which  awaited  them.  The  voyage  was  tolerably 
prosperous,  and  the  Chinese  bore  its  fatigues  and  suffering 
with  great  patience,  cheered  by  the  prospects  of  reaching 
the  foreign  land,  whither  they  had  been  tempted  by  the 
glowing  descriptions  of  those  traffickers  in  human  life,  who 
had  so  liberally  promised  them  wealth  and  happiness.  Six- 
teen died  on  the  passage,  and  were  thrown  into  the  sea. 
No  sooner  had  the  eight  hundred  survivors  landed,  than 
thirty-two  of  the  number  were  struck  down  prostrate  by 
sickness;  and  in  less  than  a  week  afterward,  eighty  more 
laid  by  their  side.  The  interpreters  who  accompanied  them 
attributed  this  rapid  prostration  to  the  want  of  their  habitual 
opium.  The  drug  was  then  distributed  among  them,  and  with 
the  good  effect  of  so  far  stimulating  their  energies  that  two- 
thirds  of  the  sick  arose  again  from  their  beds,  and  began  to 
labor.  A  Maine  opium  law,  however,  was  soon  promulgated 
on  the  score  of  the  immorality  of  administering  to  so  perni- 
cious a  habit,  and  without  regard,  it  is  hoped,  to  the  ex- 
pense; which,  however,  was  no  inconsiderable  item,  since 
the  daily  quota  of  each  Chinese  amounted  to  fifteen  grains, 
at  the  cost  of  at  least  fifteen  cents.  Whether  it  was  owing  to 
the  deprivation  of  their  habitual  stimulus,  or  to  the  malig- 
nant effects  of  the  climate,  or  home-sickness,  or  disappoint- 
ment, in  a  few  weeks  there  was  hardly  one  out  of  the  eight 
hundred  Chinese  who  was  not  prostrate  and  unfit  to  labor. 
The  poor  sufferers  let  the  pick  and  shovel  fall  from  their 
hands,  and  yielded  themselves  up  to  the  agony  of  despair. 
They  now  gladly  welcomed  death,  and  impatiently  awaited 
their  turn  in  the  ranks  which  were  falling  before  the  pesti- 


lence.  The  havoc  of  disease  went  on,  and  would  have  done 
its  work  in  time,  but  as  it  was  sometimes  merciful,  and  spared 
a  life,  and  was  deliberate  though  deadly,  the  despairing 
Chinese  could  wait  no  longer;  he  hastily  seized  the  hand  of 
death,  and  voluntarily  sought  destruction  in  its  grasp. 
Hundreds  destroyed  themselves,  and  showed,  in  their  vari- 
ous methods  of  suicide,  the  characteristic  Chinese  ingenuity. 
Some  deliberately  lighted  their  pipes,  and  sat  themselves 
down  upon  the  shore  of  the  sea,  and  awaited  the  rising  of 
the  tide,  grimly  resolved  to  die,  and  sat  and  sat,  silent  and 
unmoved  as  a  storm-beaten  rock,  as  wave  arose  above  wave, 
until  they  sank  into  the  depths  of  eternity.  Some  bargained 
with  their  companions  for  death,  giving  their  all  to  the 
friendly  hand,  which,  with  a  kindly  touch  of  the  trigger, 
would  scatter  their  brains  and  hasten  their  death.  Some 
hung  themselves  to  the  tall  trees  by  their  hair,  and  some 
twisted  their  queues  about  their  necks,  with  a  deliberate 
coil  after  coil,  until  their  faces  blackened,  their  eye-balls 
started  out,  their  tongues  protruded,  and  death  relieved 
their  agony.  Some  cut  ugly,  crutch-shaped  sticks,  shar- 
pened the  ends  to  a  point,  and  thrust  their  necks  upon 
them  until  they  were  pierced  through  and  through,  and 
thus  mangled,  yielded  up  life  in  a  torrent  of  blood.  Some 
took  great  stones  in  their  hands,  and  leaped  into  the  depths 
of  the  nearest  river,  and  clung,  with  resolute  hold,  to  the 
weight  which  sunk  them,  gurgling  in  the  agonies  of  drown- 
ing, to  the  bottom,  until  death  loosened  their  grasp,  and 
floated  them  to  the  surface,  lifeless  bodies.  Some  starved 
themselves  to  death — refusing  either  to  eat  or  drink.  Some 
impaled  themselves  upon  their  instruments  of  labor — and 
thus,  in  a  few  weeks  after  their  arrival,  there  were  but  scarce 
two  hundred  Chinese  left  of  the  whole  number.  This  miser- 
able remnant  of  poor,  heart-sick  exiles,  prostrate  from  the 
effects  of  the  climate,  and  bent  on  death,  being  useless  for 

424  PANAMA 

labor,  were  sent  to  Jamaica,  where  they  have,  ever  since, 
lingered  out  a  miserable  beggar's  life. 

"The  Railroad  Company  was  hardly  more  fortunate  with 
another  importation  of  live  freight.  A  cargo  of  Irish 
laborers  from  Cork  reached  Aspinwall,  and  so  rapidly  did 
they  yield  to  the  malignant  effects  of  the  climate,  that  not  a 
good  day's  labor  was  obtained  from  a  single  one;  and  so 
great  was  the  mortality,  that  it  was  found  necessary  to  ship 
the  survivors  to  New  York,  where  most  died  from  the  fever 
of  the  Isthmus  which  was  fermenting  in  their  blood." 

In  another  passage,  Tomes  gives  an  admirable  summary  of 
the  material  difficulties  of  the  work: 

"The  Isthmus  did  not  supply  a  single  resource  necessary 
for  the  undertaking.  Not  only  the  capital,  skill  and  enter- 
prise, but  the  labor,  the  wood  and  iron,  the  daily  food,  the 
clothing,  the  roof  to  cover  and  the  instruments  to  work  with, 
came  from  abroad.  The  United  States  supplied  the  enter- 
prising capitalists,  the  men  of  science,  the  engineers,  the 
practical  business  managers,  the  superior  workmen,  the 
masons,  carpenters  and  forgers  of  iron.  Distant  parts  of  the 
world  supplied  the  laborers.  From  Ireland  came  crowds  of 
her  laborious  peasantry.  The  negroes,  stimulated  to  un- 
usual energy  by  the  prospect  of  reward,  thronged  in  from 
Jamaica.  The  surplus  populations  of  India  and  China  con- 
tributed their  share.  The  mixed  races  of  the  province  of 
Cartagena,  the  Indian,  Spaniard  and  African,  completed 
this  representation  of  all  nations,  in  which  the  Caucasian, 
Mongolian  and  African,  the  Anglo-American,  European, 
Negro,  American,  Indian  and  Asiatic,  with  all  their  diverse 
temperaments,  habits  and  religious  faiths,  mingled  together 
appropriately  to  join  in  a  work  by  which  the  ends  of  the 
earth  were  to  be  brought  together  for  the  common  interests 
of  the  whole  world. 

"Most  of  the  material  used  for  the  construction  of  the 


road  was  brought  from  vast  distances.  Although  the  coun- 
try abounded  in  forests,  it  was  found  necessary,  from  the 
expense  of  labor  and  the  want  of  routes  of  communication, 
to  send  the  timber,  for  the  most  part,  from  the  United  States, 
and  not  only  were  the  rails,  to  a  considerable  extent,  laid 
on  American  pine,  but  the  bridges,  and  the  houses  and  work- 
shops of  the  various  settlements,  were  of  the  same  wood,  all 
fashioned  in  Maine  and  Georgia.  The  metal-work,  the  rails, 
the  locomotives,  and  the  tools,  were  brought  either  from 
England  or  the  United  States.  The  daily  food  of  the 
laborers,  even,  came  from  a  New  York  market." 

But  by  October,  1851,  they  had  laid  the  track  as  far  as 
Gatun — eight  miles  from  the  Atlantic  terminus.  This  was 
the  worst  of  the  construction  work,  for  at  Gatun  they 
struck  solid  ground.  The  first  section  had  been  through  a 
mangrove  swamp,  in  which  they  had  been  unable  to  find  a 
bottom.  The  tracks  were  practically  floated  on  an  immense 
pontoon.  It  was  not  until  many  years  later  that  the  com- 
pany was  able  to  get  in  a  fairly  solid  road-bed. 

Although  they  had  now  reached  solid  ground,  and  the 
most  difficult  problem  of  construction  had  been  solved,  the 
work  came  to  a  standstill  for  lack  of  funds.  The  cost  of 
labor  was  almost  prohibitive.  The